Heartburn is an occasional annoyance for most people, usually occurring after a pretty heavy meal. But if you have heartburn that won’t go away, it could mean that you may have a severe health condition.
In this post, we’ll explore what heartburn is and some of the reasons for its occurrence. Next, we’ll look at what chronic heartburn can mean and things you can do to treat it.
What Causes Heartburn
The term “heartburn” is usually used to refer to a condition known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). But the uncomfortable burning feeling can also be a symptom of other conditions. Let’s break this term down.
The tube that runs from your mouth to your stomach is the esophagus. It is also the beginning of your gastrointestinal tract and leads straight to the stomach. When you eat a meal, the stomach produces a very potent gastric acid that helps break down the proteins, fats, and carbohydrates in your food. After this, the combination of partly-digested food and acid, known as chyme, moves to the small intestine for further processing.
However, it’s important to note that this acid is kept from moving in the wrong direction. So, there’s a band of muscle where your esophagus meets the stomach, known as the lower esophageal sphincter. It tightens to prevent food from re-entering the esophagus from the stomach.
Critically, if this band of muscle doesn’t do its job, the acid can flow up into your esophagus and causes heartburn – mainly if you’re lying or leaning down.
So what can you do about it?
What’s To Do If Your Heartburn Won’t Go Away
Most everyone faces heartburn from time to time, but over-the-counter medications are available to help relieve chronic symptoms. For example, H2 receptor blockers and proton pump inhibitors reduce stomach acid production, while antacids neutralize stomach acid.
These medications are usually enough to reduce symptoms of GERD, although there are stronger ones available on prescription.
However, it’s essential to make lifestyle changes to reduce risk factors for heartburn. Some of these include:
- Drinking acidic or carbonated beverages, such as soda or coffee
- Drinking alcoholic beverages
- Smoking or using tobacco products
- Eating large meals, particularly before bed
- Eating spicy or fried foods, particularly fatty foods
- Being overweight or obese
- Experiencing chronic anxiety
Managing your diet and exercising can do wonders to alleviate symptoms. In addition, moderating your alcohol and food intake, not lying down right after a meal, and practicing meditative or relaxing techniques can help.
Visit a Specialist If Your Symptoms Don’t Go Away.
In general, commonly available medications, in conjunction with a healthy diet and exercise routine, can alleviate heartburn that won’t go away for many people.
But if it persists and medication doesn’t help, you should visit a specialist. They may diagnose you with a related condition, such as a hiatal hernia, or recommend surgery to treat your heartburn.
At Gastroenterology Diagnostic Center, we have significant experience in the treatment of gastrointestinal disorders. If you’d like to schedule a consultation with our board-certified gastroenterologists, give us a call at (281) 357-1977.
We look forward to helping you.