Heartburn is also known as pyrosis or acid ingestion. This common health complain usually feels like a burning sensation in the chest, situated just behind the breastbone. In some patients, heartburn can be felt even in the neck, throat, or angle of the jaw. The symptoms typically occur after eating, but many of the sufferers feel symptoms of heartburn in the middle of the night. This is probably because the pain associated with heartburn typically becomes worse when the person is lying or bending over. This common symptom may indicate the presence of some other underlying disease if it occurs frequently, more than twice a week. If a patient has difficulty swallowing or if any of the over the counter medications doesn’t provide a relief, patient should seek medical attention.
Causes of heartburn
The causes of heartburn are quite simple. It takes place whenever the stomach acid returns back up into the esophagus, from the lower part of the patient’s gastro intestinal system. Normally, this is regulated by the lower esophageal sphincter, which is the superior portion of the esophagus. The esophageal sphincter consists of striated muscle. During swallowing, it opens to pass the mass of food into the esophagus. Then it contracts again to prevent the backflow from the esophagus into the pharynx.
In some cases, the lower esophageal sphincter becomes weaker, or it relaxes abnormally, which may result in heartburn as the stomach acid flows back up into the esophagus. When the person is lying down or bending forward, the body position makes it even easier for stomach acid to flow back.
There are a lot of relatively easy ways to manage the heartburn. Generally, small changes in diet and lifestyle can bring a lot of relief to the patients. The most important, and the hardest thing to do is to try to lose all of the excessive weight. The excess body mass creates too much pressure on the abdomen, causing the stomach acid to flow back to the esophagus. Tight clothing may also put the additional pressure on the stomach and people suffering from heartburn should always choose more comfortable wardrobe.
Some foods and drinks, such as alcohol or tomato sauce, may also trigger the heartburn, and should be avoided. Persons suffering from heartburn should eat their meals more frequently but in small portions, and try to avoid laying down after a meal. If the person has problems during the night, while sleeping, the head should be elevated about six to nine inches, to prevent the stomach acid to flow back up.