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Heartburn, the burning and painful feeling in the chest is one of the most common hardships of modern man. It is the result of crossing the gastric juice (hydrochloric acid and pepsin) from stomach to esophagus causing problems.Symptoms of heartburn include: burning in the chest behind the sternum within one hour after meals, pain in the chest by bending, burning in throat because of the occurrence of hot, bitter or salty liquids from the stomach and burping. Incurred heartburn may cause damage to the lining of the esophagus, and in worst cases, can develop cancer.

There are people who are inherently prone to heartburn. But, the main cause for its occurrence and deterioration is the food.Heartburn develops because of weakness of the lower esophageal sphincter, a ring-shaped muscle that separates the stomach and esophagus. This muscle relaxes when swallowing food so it can enter the stomach and then closes to prevent its return in the esophagus. If the muscle opens at the wrong time or if it is loose, it allows the return of food. Action of acidic gastric juice leads to inflammation of the esophagus so the passage of certain food causes pain.

Some food relaxes and opens the sphincter allowing stomach acid to move from the stomach into the esophagus. These are chocolate, peppermint, fatty foods, alcohol and onion. Everything that causes belching also can cause heartburn.

Food can increase the acidity of gastric juice causing more damage and a stronger pain in the esophagus. Coffee, alcoholic drinks, beer and milk a lot encourage secretion of acid in the stomach.

Certain foods such as citrus fruits, tomato, chili and too spicy foods, when ingested, may cause pain and burning, while passing through the already inflamed and damaged esophagus

Eating quickly and bringing large amounts of food, the stomach is overload, making pressure on sphincter so it easily opens. Lying down soon after eating, especially on the right side, easily opens the sphincter. A large layer of fat also puts pressure on the sphincter and leads to its weakening and the opening. In this case losing weight is of a great help.

Chocolate is dangerous for heartburn. It contains at least four ingredients (caffeine, theobromine, theophylline and fat) that can weaken the esophageal sphincter and thus allow crossing aggressive gastric contents into the esophagus.

Fatty foods affect the creation of large amounts of cholecystocin that affect the opening of the sphincter. Besides that, fatty foods slow down stomach emptying and a large amount of acid retains longer providing greater opportunity to get back up. Hard heartburn especially causes sausages, burgers, fried foods and cheese.Chili and spicy foods can significantly increase heartburn. Many patients said that raw onion especially causes difficulties. It is believed that onion has multiple acting: it enhances the creation of acid, leads to relaxation of sphincter passing through the esophagus and irritating the mucous membrane causes pain, burning and the feeling of acid in the throat.Alcohol causes heartburn not only in people who suffer from it, but in healthy people. This is particularly pronounced, if person drinks just before going to bed. During sleep alcohol relaxes the sphincter allowing acid to pass into the esophagus. Acid attack usually happens three and a half hours after the intake of alcohol.

Heartburn can be prevented by avoiding above mentioned foodstuffs and substances stop smoking, avoiding stressful situations, not going in bed three hours after meals and reducing body weight.

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