Do we ever wonder why we get heartburn? Heartburn is one of the symptoms of GERD.
GERD(also known as) Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease or acid reflux is a condition in which the liquid (contains acid and pepsin) contents of the stomach regurgitate (reflux ) into the esophagus.
In this article we will discuss what is heartburn, causes of heartburn, heartburn vs. indigestion, how to prevent and reduce heartburn, most common relief (antacids), roles of acid, and recommendations.
Although it has nothing to do with the heart, heartburn involves a burning sensation in the chest caused by stomach acid backing up into the esophagus (food pipe). The burning is usually in the central part of the chest, just behind the sternum (breast bone). It can worsen or can be brought on by lying flat or on the right side. Pregnancy tends to aggravate heartburn.
According to estimates from the American College of Gastroenterology, at least 15 million Americans experience heartburn every day.
Just to be clear, the rise of acid in the esophagus does not mean there is too much acid in the stomach.
One of the reasons is because the esophagus (the tube that connects your mouth to the stomach) has a tight band of muscles at the lower end (lower esophageal sphincter [LES]) that closes after the food enters the stomach and prevents the stomach contents from reentering the esophagus. If this sphincter weakens or relaxes at the wrong time, stomach acid can back up into the esophagus, causing heartburn and complications.
Various factors may weaken your esophageal sphincter, such as excessive eating, being overweight, pregnancy, smoking or regular exposure to secondhand smoke, and hiatal hernia (part of the stomach protrudes into the diaphragm muscle).
Certain foods and beverages can trigger GERD like fried or fatty foods, citrus, chocolate, coffee, carbonated beverages, and drinks containing alcohol.
Some medications that can cause GERD, among them, are alpha blockers, anti-inflammatories, sedatives, and nitrates.
Our body does not react in the same way to certain food groups. To know what foods worsen your symptoms, keep a food journal. In this journal, you should keep track of what you eat, the time you ate, any activity that worsened or made the heartburn better, and indicates which days you have heartburn symptoms.
Heartburn vs Indigestion
Indigestion is not the same as heartburn.
Heartburn is a symptom of acid reflux, described as a burning sensation behind the sternum that usually occurs after a meal.
Indigestion( also known as dyspepsia) is a term that describes discomfort or pain in the upper abdomen and is not a disease. The question that needs to be asked is that there is a connection between the two?
Well, some people with heartburn report to others that they are suffering from indigestion. Although the two triggers are similar, the treatment may be the same in many cases. Indigestion is the condition and heartburn is sometimes a symptom of indigestion.
How to Prevent or Reduce Heartburn
Lifestyle changes can help you prevent or reduce your heartburn. We have several ways to do it:
– Lose weight and maintain your ideal weight. Excess weight increases pressure on the stomach, increasing the risk of acid reflux in the esophagus.
– Quit Smoking: Smoking interferes with the functioning of the lower esophageal sphincter.
– Avoid foods that aggravate heartburn and replace them with healthy foods. Avoid foods that cause heartburn. Remember to keep a food Journal to warn you of foods that make your heartburn worse.
– Raising the head of the bed will reduce reflux if you have heartburn at night.
Over-the-counter and prescription medications are available to treat heartburn. These drugs fall into three categories: Antacids, Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), and Histamine 2 inhibitors.
Most people who do not often suffer from heartburn use antacids. It neutralizes stomach acid, provides rapid relief as it decreases acid.
These medications do not cure the existing damage to your esophagus and do not prevent the next heartburn.
Example of antacids (Mylanta, Maalox, Rolaids, Tums)
If symptoms of heartburn occur more than twice a week, some people use antihistamines-2.
Their symptom relief tends to last longer than antacids, but they also need more time to start working. They are available under different brands and formulations such as (ranitidine [Zantac], nizatidine [Axid], cimetidine [Tagamet], famotidine [Pepcid]).
Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs)
The proton pump inhibitor is used for chronic heartburn. It blocks the production of acid, this allows the healing of the damaged esophagus.
Omeprazole [Prilosec], lansoprazole [Prevacid]) are examples of proton pump inhibitors.
Role of acid in the stomach
We already know that one of the symptoms of indigestion is heartburn. The burning sensation in the chest due to the presence of acid in the esophagus is a symptom of heartburn.
Acid is a product of the stomach and we are feeling that burning because it is somewhere it does not belong.
Most doctors recommend the drugs mentioned above, but the question we do not ask is: Why does the stomach produce this acid? What is his role?
The parietal cells of the stomach secrete about two liters of acid per day in the form of hydrochloric acid. The acid in the stomach is used to kill bacteria and facilitate digestion by solubilizing food. Acid is also important for establishing the optimal pH (between 1.8 and 3.5) for the function of the pepsin digestive enzyme.
Paradoxical as it may seem, the solution to acid reflux is indeed to increase the acidity of the stomach. The opposite of what is usually recommended.
The first thing to do is to increase your consumption of acidic foods, especially fermented foods rich in probiotics, these good bacteria that help digestion: organic lemon juice, pickles, vinegar, yogurt, and kefir.
Make sure you do not have a deficiency of vitamin B1, B12, and zinc, which contributes to the production of stomach acid. To make up for this deficit: eat beef, liver, lamb, eggs, cheese, flaxseed and sunflower seeds.
Drink green tea, eat fruits and vegetables rich in vitamin C (kiwi, strawberries, orange, spinach).
Maintain or restore your intestinal flora by consuming foods rich in fiber (soluble and insoluble), and probiotics.
If none of these solutions (lifestyle change and recommendations) work and your acid reflux persists, surgery may be necessary. Under no circumstances should antacid and other medications be considered a long-term solution.
If you have any questions about heartburn or want to make any recommendations from your personal experience, please leave a comment below. I would like to hear everything about it!