What is heartburn?

Despite its name, heartburn does not affect the heart. Heartburn is a burning sensation in the lower chest, accompanied by a sour or bitter taste in the throat and mouth. It usually occurs after having a big meal or while lying down. The feeling can last several minutes or several hours.

What is the cause of heartburn?

When you eat, food passes from the mouth into a tube (about 10 inches long in most people) called the esophagus. To enter the stomach, food must pass through an opening between the esophagus and stomach. This opening acts like a gate that allows food into the stomach.

Usually, this opening closes as soon as food passes. However, if it does not close completely, stomach acid can pass through the opening and the esophagus. This is called reflux. Stomach acid can irritate the esophagus and cause heartburn.

Hiatal hernia can also cause heartburn. Hiatus hernia is a condition in which part of the stomach pushes through the diaphragm (the muscle wall between the stomach and chest) and into the chest. Sometimes this causes heartburn.

What factors add to heartburn?

Many things can make heartburn worse. Heartburn is more common after overeating, when bending over or when lying down. Pregnancy, stress and certain foods can also worsen heartburn.

Things that can make heartburn worse

  • Cigarette smoking.
  • Coffee (both regular and decaffeinated) and other drinks containing caffeine.
  • Alcohol.
  • Carbonated beverages.
  • Citrus.
  • Tomato-based products.
  • Chocolate, mints or mints.
  • Fatty foods or spicy foods (such as pizza, chili and curry).
  • Onions.
  • Lying down soon after eating.
  • Being overweight or obese.
  • Aspirin or ibuprofen (one brand: Motrin).
  • Certain medications (such as sedatives and certain drugs for high blood pressure).

What I can do to feel better?

You may be able to prevent heartburn by making some changes in lifestyle.

Tips to prevent heartburn

  • Place blocks between 6 and 9 inches below the feet of the head of the bed to lift it.
  • Try to eat between at least 2 to 3 hours before bedtime. If you take naps, try sleeping in a chair.
  • If you smoke, stop smoking.
  • Lose weight if overweight.
  • Do not overeat.
  • Eat foods high in protein and low in fat.
  • Avoid tight clothes and belts.
  • Avoid foods and other things that cause you heartburn.

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