You’ve just finished your favorite meal and you begin to feel that painful burning in your chest. The pain that you feel always seems to be worse after eating, in the evening, when lying down or when bending over. The symptoms that were just described can make you feel frustrated, scared or maybe even both at the same time. If any of these symptoms sound familiar to you, then you may be experiencing heartburn. While the name heartburn may lead you to think that this has something to do with your heart, heartburn actually has nothing to do with your heart, rather it’s an irritation of your esophagus, formally known as acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
Occasional heartburn can be common and it is usually no cause for concern. It can be easily managed by simple lifestyle changes and over-the-counter medications such as antacids. Here are some symptoms of heartburn–
- A burning in the chest that typically occurs after eating
- The burning pain may occur late in the evening or at night
- Pain may worsen when lying down or bending over
- You may experience a bitter or acidic taste in your mouth
However, if you or a loved one are experiencing long-term and more frequent heartburn, more than twice a week, then you might have GERD, a digestive disorder that occurs when stomach acid frequently flows back into your esophagus, a tube that connects your mouth and stomach. This acid reflux leads to irritation of the lining of your esophagus. Here are some common signs and symptoms of GERD –
- Chest pain
- Regurgitation of food or sour liquid
- A burning sensation in your chest (heartburn) or stomach pain which typically occurs after eating and can be worse at night
- Difficulty swallowing
- Sensation of a lump in your throat
- Chronic cough
- Disrupted sleep
- Persistent sore throat or hoarseness
Here are ways to get those symptoms under control–
- Stay away from bubbles: Carbonated drinks such as soda or seltzers have bubbles that can carry acid up from the stomach. It’s best to remove carbonated drinks from your diet.
- Cut the fat: Foods that are rich in fat can take longer to digest which can create more stomach acid. A low fat diet can help reduce acid reflux.
- Cut back on caffeine: Caffeine can relax the lower esophageal sphincter which is a valve that is designed to keep the contents in your stomach down, those contents include stomach acid. If the valve is relaxed, then it won’t be as effective in keeping the acid down. Try to limit your caffeine intake to just one cup of coffee a day or less.
- Slim down: Weight loss can be a long term solution to symptoms of heartburn and GERD. A study in the journal Obesity found that following a weight loss program led to complete relief of GERD in a majority of their overweight participants.
- Stop Smoking: There have been studies that show that getting out of the habit of smoking may help improve acid reflux. One such study is in the American Journal of Gastroenterology.
- See the doctor: Make an appointment with your doctor to help you find relief and discuss other options if over-the-counter medications are not helping or you are experiencing severe symptoms.
Most people can manage the discomfort of GERD with lifestyle changes and medications as well, however, some people with GERD may need stronger medications or surgery to alleviate the symptoms. Sometimes, the only thing that medications do is just temporality treat or mask the symptoms of heartburn and GERD. There are surgical treatment options that can help improve your quality of life.
Additional information about finding a solution to your long-term problem can be found at the MountainView Heartburn & Reflux Center, we work with your physician to help find the best treatment plan for you. If surgical options are needed, MountainView offers an effective, minimally invasive surgical procedure to help treat severe acid reflux and GERD. Seek immediate help if you experience severe chest pain or pressure, especially when combined with other signs and symptoms such as pain in your jaw or arm, or shortness of breath and difficulty breathing as these may be symptoms of a heart attack. Let us help you on your path to relief from heartburn and reflux symptoms by calling (702) 271-6453 or visiting MountainView-hospital.com!