BACKGROUND: One in ten Americans experiences heartburn symptoms at least once a week. Heartburn is a painful burning feeling in the chest or throat. It happens when stomach acid backs up into the esophagus. Gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, is a digestive disorder that affects the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), the ring of muscle between the esophagus and stomach. Many people, including pregnant women, suffer from heartburn or acid indigestion caused by GERD. Recent studies show that GERD in infants and children is more common than previously recognized and may produce recurrent vomiting, coughing, and other respiratory problems. (SOURCE: www.webmd.com)
COMMON HEARTBURN TRIGGERS: The specific triggers for heartburn differ from person to person. A number of foods and drinks can cause heartburn; some common triggers are:
- Alcohol, particularly red wine
- Black pepper, garlic, raw onions, and other spicy foods
- Citrus fruits and products, such as oranges and orange juice
- Coffee and caffeinated drinks, including tea and soda
HEARTBURN IS NOT A HEART CONDITION: Heartburn is caused by acidic fluid from the stomach washing up into the esophagus, or the swallowing tube. It is not caused by a heart condition. The discomfort of heartburn is often a burning sensation directly beneath the breastbone, causing some people to immediately think it’s related to the heart, although it is not. The discomfort is often accompanied by burping, or symptoms of bloating or gas. Sometimes an acid taste occurs in the mouth. These symptoms are not indicative of or consistent with a heart condition. (SOURCE: www.prilosecotc.com)
HEARTBURN REMEDIES MYTHS AND TRUTHS: There is a lot of misleading information out there on how to properly treat heartburn, such as drinking cream or milk. Doctors do not recommend drinking milk to reduce heartburn, as it has been proven that milk temporarily reduces the symptoms only to later increase acid production by the stomach, which causes more heartburn. Doctors recommend making lifestyle changes to treat heartburn, such as:
- Avoiding foods and beverages that can weaken the LES is recommended. These foods include chocolate, peppermint, fatty foods, coffee, and alcoholic beverages.
- Eating meals at least 2 to 3 hours before bedtime may lessen reflux by allowing the acid in the stomach to decrease and the stomach to empty partially.
- Elevating the head of the bed on 6-inch blocks or sleeping on a specially designed wedge reduces heartburn by allowing gravity to minimize reflux of stomach contents into the esophagus. Do not use pillows to prop yourself up which only increases pressure on the stomach.