What Is Heartburn?
Heartburn occurs when acid or other stomach contents “back up” or “reflux” into the esophagus, which connects the throat to the stomach and where food passes through from the mouth. Also called acid indigestion, heartburn is a symptom of gastroesophageal reflux (GERD).
The issue stems from the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), a muscle that is located between your stomach and esophagus. When it’s functioning well, it will open to let food into your stomach or to let you blech and close again. But if it is weak or relaxes at inappropriate times and doesn’t close tightly or quickly enough, it will cause acid backwash which results in heartburn. It can be described as a burning discomfort in the upper belly or below your breastbone.
Heartburns is a common symptom. It is often caused by overeating or there is too much pressure on your stomach due to constipation, obesity or pregnancy. Consuming spicy food or taking alcohol can also relax your LES too much or increase stomach acid.
What Does Heartburn Means?
Heartburn usually means you have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
Other accompanying symptoms to GERD include bitter taste in the mouth, burning at the back of your throat, difficulty swallowing, chest pain after lying down, bending over or eating, chronic cough and persistent sore throat or hoarseness.
What Causes Heartburn?
The risk of heartburn is increased when there is a greater production of acid in the stomach caused by the foods we eat and drink such as acidic juices (orange, grapefruit, pineapples), acidic foods (tomatoes), caffeine, alcohol, chocolate and carbonated beverages. Over-the-counter medications also may precipitate heartburn.
Other factors include smoking and consumption of high-fat content or spicy foods, pregnancy, and obesity.
If you suffer from the occasional heartburn, you may find relief with over-the-counter such as antacid. Your doctor may prescribe proton pump inhibitor or other medication to lower the acid in your stomach. They help to heal the esophageal lining. Other quick remedies include mixing baking soda with water, making ginger tea, taking licorice supplements, wearing loose clothing, and elevating your body during bedtime.
Seeing A Doctor For Heartburn
If you are reaching for antacids or medication more often than not, and you are not getting better, it’s time to seek medical help and head to a clinic. You may need additional investigation if occurs more than once a week for six months or longer.
Long-term heartburn or GERD can lead to serious problems such as narrowing or scarring of the esophagus and eventually cancer of the esophagus.
Share with your doctor or see a specialist in gastroenterology regarding your symptoms. He may begin with a history and physical examination to make a diagnosis of GERD and recommend treatment. He may carry out several tests needed to evaluate the underlying issue, and gastroscopy is often carried out for further evaluation. For refractory cases, specialized study such as 24-hour pH study may be carry out. In Singapore, this is available at gutCARE or major Government hospital.
Lifestyle modification and dietary changes can also help in managing heartburn. A modest weight loss can have significant benefit in term of symptom improvement. Avoid eating heavily or eating within two hours of bedtime, or lying down soon after a meal. Cut down or stop eating certain known foods like fatty, fried and acidic foods, citrus juices and alcohol. As everyone reacts somewhat differently to specific foods, keep a food journal to keep track of what you eat, what time, any activity that worsened the condition and how long is the duration. This way, you can correlate the offending foods with heartburn incidents.
Cost of investigation and treatment in Singapore is often fully covered by private health insurance or company health insurance. You can contact us to find out more.
- Services, Symptoms