Heartburn

 

Heartburn may be a symptom of a condition called acid reflux disease.  Heartburn is caused by stomach acid splashing up into your esophagus causing burning, pressure or discomfort.

Acid reflux disease or GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) often is caused by weak muscles at the top of the stomach allowing acid up into the esophagus causing symptoms and possible irritation to the esophagus.

 

What are the symptoms of GERD?

Frequent heartburn, regurgitation of food, a sour or bitter taste in the mouth or belching may be due to acid reflux.  For some, symptoms may include burning chest pain, trouble swallowing or sore throat.

Do particular foods aggravate acid reflux disease?

Some foods which commonly aggravate acid reflux disease include carbonated beverages, chocolate, mints, alcohol, and acidic foods such as citrus or tomato-based foods.

Are there any lifestyle changes that can help manage acid reflux disease?

Watching what you eat can help control acid reflux.  Avoiding fatty meals and eating smaller meals helps reduce heartburn.  Acid reflux can also be reduced by losing weight, avoiding tight clothing (belts or pants), and quitting smoking.  If you symptoms are often at night, avoid eating 3-4 hours before going to bed or consider raising the head of your bed 6 to 8 inches by using wooden/concrete blocks.

What medicines should I take for my heartburn?

There are a number of products available over the counter to help with heartburn.  Antacids help neutralize stomach acid and often provide temporary relief.  H2 blockers such as ranitidine and famotidine decrease the amount of acid produced in the stomach.  These medications can be used before a meal known to cause heartburn or used afterward to treat symptoms.  Proton pump inhibitors of PPI’s block the production and secretion of stomach acid.  These medications must be taken on a daily basis to effectively control heartburn.

When should you see your doctor about you acid reflux?

Persistent acid reflux can cause damage to the stomach and esophagus leading to scarring, ulcers or increasing your risk for cancer.  If you have heartburn 2 or more days a week, difficulty swallowing, weight loss, or symptoms uncontrolled by medicines, talk to your doctor.