Over 60 million Americans suffer from chronic heartburn. Get the basics on acid reflux.
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Understanding HeartburnOver 60 million Americans suffer from heartburn at least once a month. That is a lot of people, a lot of the time. Learn more about this common condition.Mark Haltrecht, D.O.Family Practice DoctorNSLIJ Plainview HospitalDespite its name, heartburn has nothing to d with the heart. Actually, heartburn is a painful burning sensation in the esophagus which is caused by acid that refluxes or seeps up from the stomach.When you swallow, food passes down the throat through a long tube, the esophagus to the stomach. A muscular valve called the lower esophageal sphincter or LES opens to allow food into the stomach and then it closes again. At this point the stomach releases a strong acid to help break down the food you have eaten but if the LES opens too often or does not close tightly, that stomach acid can reflux into your esophagus causing the painful sensation known as heartburn,There are several things that can contribute to the LES that does not tighten or close as it should and up to 90% of cases the cause is diet. The food most commonly linked to heartburn includes chocolate, citrus fruits and juices, tomatoes and tomato sauces, peppermint flavoring, and spicy foods. Although, every sufferer has a unique triggers and trigger combinations. Alcohol especially red wine, caffeinated beverages and tobacco products can also contribute to a flare up.Another cause of heartburn is constant pressure on the stomach. For this reason, many people who are obese suffer from the condition. Additionally, 50% of pregnant women experienced recurrent heartburn due to the weight o the baby on their stomach. Occasionally, certain medical conditions can cause bouts of heartburn and people with diabetes for example; gastroparesis can lead to the condition.Gastroparesis is observed in which the stomach takes too long to empty, occasionally causing its content to regurgitate into the esophagus. A hiatal hernia is a condition in which a portion of the stomach protrudes into the esophagus. This can allow stomach acid to back up and cause heartburn. Asthma has also been liked to a likelihood of heartburn. But the connection is still unclear. Some experts believe that acid in the esophagus triggers an asthma attack by irritating airway nerves.Other supports that an asthmatic cough can cause the LES to relax. Certain medications can also cause bouts of heartburn. Aspirin and anti-inflammatory drugs like Alleve and Advil in particular are also known to trigger symptoms. Because prescription medications can lead to heartburn too, it is important to talk to your doctor if you are experiencing frequent heartburn while taking prescription medications. Occasional bouts of heartburn while uncomfortable are usually not indicative of a bigger problem. However, if heartburn occurs daily or does not respond to basic treatment, you will have a more serious problem and you should see your doctor immediately.Want o learn more, check out other videos and sources on this site for more information.