What Is Alopecia Heartburn?
Heartburn is a burning discomfort that is generally felt in the chest just behind the breastbone. The burning sensation results when harsh stomach juices come in contact with and irritate the delicate lining of the esophagus, the tube-like structure that connects the mouth to the stomach.
Why do stomach juices irritate the esophagus?
These juices, which are produced by the stomach to help the body break down food, contain a powerful acid called hydrochloric acid. While the stomach is naturally protected from this potent acid, the esophagus does not share the same protective qualities as the stomach. So, if acidic stomach contents come into contact with the esophagus, its skin-like lining can be irritated or injured and result in the sensation known as heartburn.
What does heartburn feel like?
People with heartburn generally describe one or more of the following symptoms:
• a burning chest pain that begins at the breastbone and moves up toward the throat
• a feeling that food or liquid is coming back into the mouth or throat
• an acid or bitter taste at the back of the throat
• an increase in severity of pain behind the breastbone when lying down or bending over
What causes heartburn?
Heartburn is caused when acidic stomach juices reflux-or flow backward-into the esophagus. This generally occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter (LES)-the natural valve that keeps stomach acid in the stomach and out of the esophagus-relaxes or is not functioning properly.
When functioning normally, the LES opens like a door that allows food into the stomach but not out the same way. However, at times the LES relaxes and allows stomach juices to flow upward into the esophagus. This relaxation exposes the esophagus to the harsh acid from the stomach. Physicians refer to this as gastroesophageal reflux.
Various lifestyle and dietary factors can contribute to heartburn by 1) increasing the relaxation of the LES, allowing it to open 2) increasing the amount of acid produced in the stomach 3) increasing stomach pressure, or 4) by making the esophagus more sensitive to harsh acid. These triggers vary from person to person. The most common contributing factors include the following:
• Eating/Dietary Habits
• Eating foods such as citrus fruits, chocolate, peppermint, spearmint, tomatoes or tomato-based products, raw onions, garlic, black pepper, vinegar and fatty or spicy foods
• Drinking beverages such as coffee, citrus juices, and caffeinated, carbonated or alcoholic beverages
• Eating large portions
• Eating before bedtime
• Certain positions
• Lying down, especially after eating
• Bending over
• Medical reasons
• Hiatal Hernia
• Taking certain medications
• Lifestyle habits
• Being overweight
• Certain types of exercise/body positions
• Hectic lifestyle
• Wearing restrictive clothing
What can I do to treat or relieve my heartburn?
With the proper medication and medical advice, most heartburn sufferers can effectively treat and relieve their heartburn symptoms.
Many heartburn sufferers significantly reduce their risk of getting heartburn by avoiding the trigger foods and behaviors that affect them most. In addition to noting the potential contributing factors above, you may want to consult the NHBA Stop & Select Guide. The guide assigns a color code to foods and beverages based on the food's tendency to create acid, irritate the gastric lining and/or relax the lower esophageal sphincter. Using the guide as a reference, heartburn sufferers can assess the likelihood of a heartburn episode based on the color code of the foods and beverages consumed.
How do I choose the right medication for my heartburn?
While heartburn affects more than 50 million Americans each month, not all heartburn is equal and not all Americans suffer to the same degree. There are different medications to treat heartburn, and these various medications work in different ways. Consult your health care professional to discuss the treatment that is appropriate for your type of heartburn.
Episodic heartburn is a common type of heartburn. These infrequent bouts of heartburn are often predictable and are usually manageable through lifestyle adjustments and traditional OTC treatments (e.g., antacids, H2 antagonists, also known as H2 blockers). Antacids neutralize existing stomach acid and provide relatively rapid but short-term relief of heartburn symptoms. H2 blockers partially block production of acid in the stomach. The effect of H2 blockers varies depending on the specific product or brand used. One dose of an H2 blocker can last from six to 12 hours.
Frequent heartburn is heartburn that occurs two or more days a week. Frequent heartburn sufferers may also be those who medicate heartburn symptoms two or more days a week. It is estimated that more than 50 million adult Americans suffer from frequent heartburn.
The proton pump inhibitor (PPI) Prilosec OTC is the only OTC medication indicated specifically for frequent heartburn. Prilosec OTC provides 24-hour relief of frequent heartburn symptoms with one daily pill when taken as directed for 14 days. PPIs, powerful inhibitors of stomach acid production, virtually shut down the acid pumps in cells of the stomach where stomach acid is produced, leaving enough acid for normal digestion of food.
Severe or persistent heartburn, if suffered while or after taking the appropriate medication, could be gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Individuals suffering from severe or persistent heartburn should receive prompt medical evaluation to confirm the presence or absence of GERD and determine the appropriate course of treatment for their heartburn symptoms (generally a prescription-strength PPI).
People who do not get complete relief through lifestyle changes and/or medication, or who require continuous medication, may need a more complete diagnostic evaluation.
National Heartburn Alliance