Heartburn is a symptom of GERD (gastro-oesophageal reflux disease), which is caused by acid refluxing back into the oesophagus.
Some symptoms of heartburn include:
- A burning feeling in the chest just behind the breastbone that happens after eating, and lasts a few minutes to several hours.
- Chest pain, especially after bending over, lying down or eating.
- Burning in the throat.
The symptoms can start up as a result of a problem with a muscular valve, called the lower oesophageal sphincter (LES). It’s located where the oesophagus meets the stomach below the ribcage. When it’s working right, the LES opens to allow food into your stomach or to let you belch, then closes again. But if the LES opens too often or doesn’t close tightly enough, stomach acid can seep into the oesophagus and cause a burning sensation.
Certain foods can relax your LES or increase stomach acid including tomatoes, citrus fruits, garlic and onions, chocolate, coffee or caffeinated products, alcohol, and peppermints, meals that are generally high in fats and oils, and some medications. Stress and lack of sleep can raise how much acid your stomach makes, and can cause heartburn. In pregnant women, the hormone progesterone can relax the LES and lead to heartburn. Smoking also relaxes the LES, and increases stomach acid.
It can be treated with lifestyle changes and medications (over-the-counter drugs and prescribed drugs). In extremely rare cases, surgical procedures are available to help with severe and chronic heartburn. It should be advised that in other not to suffer from heartburn, one should refrain from smoking, eating unhealthy and excessive intake of alcohol.