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Heartburn is caused by an esophageal irritation due to stomach acid. The result is a burning sensation in the upper abdominal area or just beneath the breastbone. Heartburn is a very common occurrence in adults – especially in pregnant women. Health care experts estimate about 20% of Americans suffer from heartburn on a weekly basis. Suffering from occasional heartburn is not harmful. Experiencing chronic heartburn or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) may lead to serious health complications. To learn more about heartburn, please contact Central Florida Hepatology & Gastroenterology at 407.303.1812 or request an appointment on our website.                                                                                                                                              

Symptoms of Heartburn

Heartburn is a symptom of GERD and acid reflux, but it does not mean the individual suffers from either of those conditions. While there are several things that can trigger heartburn symptoms, most individuals experience similar sensations.

  • Burning sensation in the upper abdomen/chest area occurring after eating and lasting for up to several hours
  • Chest discomfort that is exacerbated when eating or lying down
  • The sensation that food is stuck in the chest or throat
  • Constant cough or sore throat

Severe heartburn is often confused with symptoms of a heart attack. Many individuals seek emergency medical treatment believing they are having a heart attack, when in reality they are suffering from major heartburn. In many cases, tests are needed to determine the cause of the chest pain.

Causes of Heartburn

The causes of heartburn differ from person to person. The key to controlling simple heartburn is to know what causes the onset of symptom, and to avoid those foods, medications or activities. While one person may be able to eat a bowl full of rich and spicy pasta primavera, others may not be able to without experiencing painful heartburn.

The most common cause of heartburn is digesting a large, fatty meal late in the evening. Chowing down on a pizza and soda late at night, followed by lying down is for most, a sure fire recipe for heartburn. A full stomach causes increased pressure on the LES, the muscle that fends on stomach acid from going the wrong way. When acid creeps back up, the burning sensation begins.

Fatty meals, no matter what size, can set off heartburn because they sit around in your stomach longer. This causes your stomach to create more acid, and to become lazy - often leading to painful symptoms. Common foods and beverages that lead to heartburn include:

  • Alcohol
  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Citrus fruits and juices
  • Coffee
  • Tomatoes

Treatment for Heartburn

Treatment for heartburn varies depending on the severity. Health care professionals recommend avoiding foods that cause symptoms. Over the counter antacids are used, and typically work well to neutralize stomach acid. If over the counter medications are ineffective, prescription medications known as proton pump inhibitors work to inhibit the stomach from producing acid. As a last resort, surgery may be needed to repair the lower esophageal sphincter.

To learn more about heartburn, please contact Central Florida Hepatology & Gastroenterology at 407.303.1812 or request an appointment on our website.