Heartburn can be described as a burning sensation, discomfort or pain that most times begins in the upper abdomen below the lower breastbone also known as the sternum. This pain could continue to extend upward to your throat which could leave you with a sour taste in your mouth.
occurs if a muscle known as lower esophageal sphincter (LES) weakens or relaxes. It is situated between your stomach and your esophagus beneath the rib cage. Usually it opens so that food can enter the stomach or to allow belching and closes. If it does not get closed quickly and tightly, the stomach acid could reflux or leak into the esophagus causing a burning sensation which leads to heartburn.
Heartburn causes a lot of problems such as bloating, nausea, swallowing and burping while in some people it may cause asthma, very bad cough, wheezing, choking and in some cases may lead to people having sleeping problems. Heartburn commonly becomes worse after having a meal, lying down or when you bend over and becomes better when you sit or stand up.
Heartburn is likely to occur more in adults than children. Many pregnant women experience heartburn daily because of their growing uterus that puts a lot of upward pressure on the stomach, along with increased levels of the hormone progesterone which could cause a brief weakness in the lower esophageal sphincter (LES).
There are times symptoms of heartburn are similar to those of a heart attack. This is why it is important to book an appointment with a doctor because symptoms of heartburn may be more serious than you think.
What Causes Heartburn
The main is when the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) does not close quickly and does not close very tight. If the LES weakens or relaxes abnormally, acid from the stomach can go back into the esophagus (acid reflux) causing heartburn. This could become worse when lying down or bending over.
This is normally caused by two problems, which are
- Eating too much which leaves a lot of food in the stomach
- Too much pressure on the stomach which is regularly caused by constipation, pregnancy and obesity.
- It is worth noting that heartburn is more likely to occur if you have hiatal hernia. Hiatal hernia is a condition where part of the stomach stretches through an opening of the diaphragm into the cavity of the chest. This makes the LES to become weaker making it easier for acid to go back from the stomach into the esophagus.
- There are some foods that make the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) to be relaxed such as chocolate, garlic, citric fruits, coffee, onions, alcohol, peppermint, items that are caffeinated and tomatoes.
- Foods that are high in fats and oils whether vegetable or animal most times leads to heartburn occurring.
- There are also some types of medications that can make heartburn situations arise, medicines that can make heartburn occur are those related to treating asthma, lung diseases, birth control, menstrual bleeding, high blood pressure, Parkinson disease, anxiety or having problems sleeping. So if you experiencing heartburn and you are on medication then you should check with your doctor.
- Lack of sleep as well as stress can lead to a rise in acid production and can cause heartburn.
- Smoking is also another factor to consider as a major cause of heartburn as it relaxes the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) and encourages stomach acid.
Symptoms Of Heartburn
Signs more characteristic of heartburn are listed below:
- A severe burning sensation that occurs beneath the breastbone or ribs
- Pain that normally occurs after eating, when you lie on your back, when you are anxious or when you exercise
- The pain becomes worse when lying down or bending over
- Though not common, you may experience pain on your arms, neck and shoulders
- The pain is not complemented with cold sweat
When Do You Know If It Is Heartburn Or A Heart Problem
Heartburn is a symptom of gastroesophageal reflux (GERD). It happens when acid or other substances in your stomach move back into the esophagus which is the tube where food passes from your mouth to your stomach. When acid reflux is common and affects your daily routine, it could mean you have a condition known as gastroesophageal reflux (GERD). Treatment of GERD may require prescribed medications and in some situations surgery and other procedures may be required.
If you are interested in knowing if what you are having is heartburn from GERD then you need to watch out for other signs or symptoms such as having palpitations, being sweaty and finding it hard to breathe. If you have any of these symptoms when experiencing heartburn you will need to see a doctor to make sure it is not a heart problem.
What you can also observe is when the heartburn occurs. For instance if after having some food to eat you just feel a burning sensation in your chest without any other symptom it is highly likely to be heartburn indigestion or reflux but this is not a certainty as it could also be cardiac.
Generally, heartburn should not be taken lightly. If heartburn from acid reflux continues without you getting any treatment, it can lead to complications occurring. These include inflammation of the esophagus that causes bleeding due to its lining being affected. Another complication to consider is Barrett’s esophagus which refers to the situation where the cells lining the esophagus become abnormal and this increases the risk of esophageal cancer.