Heartburn is a condition that is felt as a burning sensation in your chest, located behind your breast bone area. Heartburn is typically worse when you’re lying down or bending over. Heartburn is not a serious condition and one that is very common. You can easily treat it with over-the-counter remedies and learn ways to avoid it, such as avoiding trigger foods like those that are spicy. Some factors might raise your risk of heartburn such as being pregnant.
Symptoms of Heartburn
If you aren’t sure if you are experiencing heartburn, you should get familiar with the common signs and symptoms. These include a burning sensation in your chest that gets worse at night or while laying down, and usually comes on shortly after eating a meal, and a pain that will increase in severity when in a reclining position or while bending over. It usually isn’t a problem but if you have severe chest pain, problems breathing, or jaw or arm pain, you should seek medical attention immediately.
Causes of Heartburn and GERD
Heartburn happens when your stomach acid is backed up into your esophagus. As you swallow, your lower esophageal sphincter will relax and let food and liquid to flow smoothly into your stomach before it closes. But when the esophageal sphincter weakens or doesn’t relax properly, the acid can flow back up into your esophagus which causes heartburn. This is also why it can be worse when lying down or bending over. Some foods trigger heartburn including black pepper, coffee, chocolate, alcohol, fatty foods, fried foods, ketchup, mustard, onions, orange juice, tomato sauce, soft drinks, peppermint, and vinegar.
Diagnosis and Treatment
If your heartburn seems to be worsening or doesn’t go away in a short amount of time, you may need to see your doctor. After a questionnaire about your symptoms and a physical examination, they will perform a series of tests. This includes an x-ray of your upper digestive system, an endoscopy, ambulatory acid probe test, and an esophageal mobility test to measure the pressure and movement of your esophagus. In most cases, you can treat heartburn at home with over-the-counter medications like an antacid, H-2 receptor blocker, or a medication that will block acid production and start healing the esophagus such as Prevacid or Prilosec. You will also want to make lifestyle changes such as eating a healthy diet, avoiding spicy foods and acidic foods that worsen the heartburn, and avoid heating shortly before bedtime.