Heartburn has nothing common with any heart problem neither is it linked with the heart. It is a problem solely related to the digestive system. Heartburn is a condition that occurs due to acid reflux. In case of acid reflux, the acid that is created in the stomach is forced back to the esophagus, which then forms a burning sensation in the chest, especially in the breast bone and upper abdomen. Heartburn can happen to any person at any time. When it persists for more than two weeks, it leads to GERD (Gastro Esophageal Reflux Disease). This disease can lead to severe health issues if not treated in time.
Symptoms of Heartburn
In heartburn, a burning sensation in the upper abdomen is felt at the initial stage. In the advanced stage, such sensation reaches in the chest, and middle of the abdomen. Many patients also feel mild to severe pain in the upper abdomen. If medication is not taken in time, the burning sensation may reach to the throat, and the patient may feel some sort of breathing problem and sour taste in the mouth.
Heartburn and acid reflux is not the same thing. Heartburn is an initial symptom of acid reflux. In advanced stages, acid reflux may cause many other problems like regurgitation, and dyspepsia, etc.
How Long Does Heartburn Last?
The body's immunity system automatically triggers remedies to counteract heartburn. If any other related illness is not causing any physical disturbance, heartburn is cured within 2-3 hours' time. Few people experiences associated symptoms of inability to sleep, asthma, wheezing, coughing or choking episodes. Heartburn can also cause problems with swallowing burping, bloating and burning pain. Heartburn begins after having a meal and can get worse with lying down or with activities requiring you to bend down.
What to Take for Heartburn?
For occasional heartburn, taking mild antacids can help, but in some cases H2 blockers and proton pump inhibitors (PPI) may be needed, especially when the symptoms of heartburn are not improving naturally or even after taking antacids. In the treatment procedure, a doctor looks for the primary causes of heartburn which could be some lifestyle issues, or the side-effects of some medications.
Both prescription drugs and over-the-counter antacids are frequently used to nullify excess stomach acid. If antacids don't suppress the heartburn symptoms, taking over-the-counter medication called an H2 blocker such as cimetidine, famotidine, nizatidine, etc. can provide relief from heartburn.
If the heartburn symptoms still persist, the physician can prescribe proton pump inhibitors or PPI, like dexlansoprazole, esomeprazole, rabeprazole, etc. to inhibit the stomach's production of acid.
When all common treatment procedures fail to relieve heartburn, surgical intervention may be essential to repair the lower esophageal sphincter. In modern treatment procedure, this surgery is done with the help of a laparoscope and generally necessitates only a short hospital stay.
Natural Remedies That Can Be Taken to Treat Heartburn
Heartburn is a physical condition that most people will experience in their lifetime. Many people suffer from this disease frequently, while many other occasionally. In any case, everyone should have some knowledge on very easy-to-adopt home or natural remedies that can be taken for heartburn. This will enable them to get relief in case the problem occurs at an unusual place or time, at the same time, natural remedies will reduce the dependency on medications.
Some of the home or natural remedies that one can take for heartburn are mentioned below:
- Mix one tablespoon of baking soda with water and drink it to get immediate relief from the symptoms of heartburn.
- Ginger tea in a small cup can be taken daily to inhibit overproduction of acid in the stomach.
- Having an Apple lessens the acid level in the stomach and also helps in digestion.
- Sometimes, less acid in the stomach can lead to heartburn. As the production of acid decreases in the stomach, the brain gets information that the lower esophageal sphincter can be kept loose to some extent. In such condition acid reflux may occur. So, taking foods with some natural acids may work in this condition.
- Taking lots of water is the best and easiest way to get rid of heartburn.
What are the Causes of Heartburn?
The problem of heartburn is too common all around the world. According to a recent data, more than 15 million people in the USA are affected by heartburn daily. The basic cause of heartburn is any kind of malfunctioning of lower esophageal sphincter, or LES. It is a bundle of muscles at the lower end of esophagus, where it meets with the stomach. The lower esophageal sphincter controls the movement of foods from the esophagus to the stomach debarring the food materials from getting back to esophagus. When this sphincter doesn't tighten properly, semi-digested food materials, and acids that form in the stomach may enter into the esophageal region, which is known as acid reflux. Acid in the stomach can cause such problem if it is overproduced than required.
So, the two obvious causes of acid reflux leading to heartburn are malfunctioning of the lower esophageal sphincter, and overproduction of acid in the stomach.
Malfunctioning of LES may be due to the following reasons:
- Overeating that causes too much pressure on the upper part of the stomach.
- Pressure on the stomach due to constipation, obesity, and pregnancy.
- Again, there are certain food materials that sometimes relax the concerned muscles. Excess of such foodstuffs like onion, garlic, chocolate, caffeine, etc. have the capability to relax the muscles and allow acid reflux.
- Unhealthy lifestyle, alcoholism, smoking, overindulgence in fast foods, etc. can also weaken the concerned bundle of muscles.
Overproduction of acid in the stomach may be due to many reasons, like the following ones:
- Overeating of oily or fatty foods
- Irregular eating habit
- Alcoholism and smoking
- Stress, tension, and less sleep
- Changing eating habit
How is Heartburn Diagnosed?
Medical history of the patients, eating habit, lifestyle, and physical symptoms are just sufficient for a physician to recognize the presence of heartburn. In case of a chronic patient who is suffering from heartburn like symptoms almost regularly, a doctor may advise some pathological testing and other diagnosis, like the following ones:
- Esophageal pH probe study or Bravo testing
- Barium Swallow Radiograph
These tests are necessary to eliminate the chance of other diseases with similar symptoms as that of heartburn.
Plenty of over-the-counter medicines and prescription drugs are available to combat against heartburn, but the actual remedy lies in identifying and treating the basic problem that has been causing heartburn. In most of the situations, a lifestyle change, and giving up some bad habits like excessive smoking and drinking alcohol are found to improve the condition significantly. People having obesity, a tendency of overeating, problems in sound sleeping, etc. may need treatment or remedy against such problems. Heartburn is quite common, but repetitive heartburn should be taken seriously. If necessary, people having frequent heartburn may need to go for a long-term treatment.