Heartburn is a common problem, especially if you love spicy or acidic foods. It is estimated over 60 million people in this country suffer from heartburn at least once a month, and 15 million Americans feel heartburn daily, according to the American College of Gastroenterology.
Heartburn feels like a burning pain in your throat and chest, but it has nothing to do with your heart. Heartburn is caused by excess stomach acid, produced when you eat spicy or acid foods. Occasional heartburn can be relieved with over-the-counter antacids.
In addition to taking antacids, there are a few tips you can try for occasional heartburn. Remember to:
- Avoid eating before lying down
- Limit spicy or acidic foods in your diet
- Avoid eating a large meal before bed
- Eat smaller meals more frequently
If you suffer from chronic heartburn, you could have acid reflux or a more serious condition known as gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD.
Acid reflux is caused by the sphincter muscle between your esophagus and stomach not closing properly or completely. This sphincter muscle is responsible for preventing stomach acid from backing up into your throat. When the sphincter muscle stays open, stomach acid can back up into your throat, causing heartburn.
If acid reflux goes untreated, it can develop into gastroesophageal reflux disease, commonly known as GERD. This condition can cause damage to your esophagus, and even esophageal cancer.
You should visit your gastroenterologist if you suffer from heartburn more than twice in a week. You should also visit your gastroenterologist if you experience:
- Nausea or vomiting
- Difficulty swallowing
- Weight loss from lack of appetite
- Chest or abdominal pain
- Throat problems or bad breath
- Wheezing or dry coughing
- Tooth enamel erosion
Your gastroenterologist is an expert at treating heartburn, acid reflux, and gastroesophageal reflux disease. If you experience regular episodes of heartburn, it’s time to take action and schedule an appointment with your GI doctor. Don’t wait, because chronic heartburn can be serious, so call your GI doctor today.