What is Heartburn? Symptoms, Causes, and Home Remedies

Heartburn has become so common that we hear it from everyone in our surroundings, be it our family, friends, or people in our locality. Did you know that 20-30% of people suffer from heartburn in India as well as in America? Moreover, around 60% of women have this symptom of heartburn as a problem of GERD or acid reflux.

1. What is Heartburn?

The technical term for heartburn and similar issues is Pyrosis or Acid Indigestion. Pyrosis is a common condition that leads to severe pain and a burning sensation in the chest or upper abdomen. It is usually caused by stomach acid flowing back into the esophagus. A problem in the body’s digestive system leads to the formation of excessive acid in the stomach and causes severe heartburn.

As a result, the excessive acid formed in the stomach travels into the esophagus, causing a burning sensation and pain in the chest. This leads to difficulty in digesting food and drinks.

2. Understanding Heartburn and Acid Reflux

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There is no difference between the two because both sail in the same boat. However, acid reflux is caused when the food or excessive acid formed in the stomach travels back to your mouth or throat through the esophagus, whose function is to carry food and liquid to the stomach from the mouth.

On the other hand, heartburn is a symptom of acid reflux, which causes a burning sensation in your chest or throat. Also, heartburn is caused more frequently if you are overweight or pregnant.

3. Symptoms of Heartburn

People often complain about various factors or issues they face while having heartburn. A few of them are as follows:-

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  • Upper abdomen pain – a burning sensation caused between the bottom of the breastbone and the belly button.
  • Nausea – a feeling that makes you wish to vomit.
  • Dysphagia – It is a feeling of difficulty in swallowing food arising from the esophageal lining due to irritation caused by excessive acid reflux.
  • Bloating, burping, or passing of gas after meals – It is due to swallowing too much air or drinking and eating too quickly.
  • Developing a sour and bad taste in the mouth.
  • Bad breath due to flowing back of acidic food.
  • Severe pain and swelling in the throat often lead to loss of appetite, weakening a person’s immune system.
  • Tooth decaying and gum irritation due to excessive acid in the mouth.

4. Causes of Heartburn

The causes of heartburn can be either general, which are not serious or due to an underlying condition.

4.1. General Causes

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Source: Pexels
  1. Consumption of acidic, processed, and spicy foods like tomatoes, cheese, and pork leads to stomach irritation, disturbing the digestive tract’s pH levels.
  2. A frequent practice of smoking leads to heartburn because it disturbs the esophagus, which prevents the acid from flowing in the body and keeps it in the stomach. Also, smoking leads to the weakening of the immune system, thereby making the body more prone to infections.
  3. Sometimes, fluctuations in hormones lead to heartburn, especially in women, when they are at a stage of menopause in their life.
  4. Pregnant women also experience heartburn due to changes in hormone levels during pregnancy.
  5. Stress and anxiety are a common cause of heartburn. Emotional stress and excessive worrying lead to an increase in the formation of acid in the stomach, which further causes acidity and indigestion.
  6. bacteria infection in the stomach often causes heartburn.

 4.2. Underlying Conditions

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  1. GERD – It stands for Gastroesophageal reflux disease. It is caused by acid flowing back from the stomach to the food pipe. It leads to irritation and inconvenience in the day-to-day activities of people suffering from it. Depending upon your symptoms, doctors can confirm that you have GERD by tests such as upper endoscopy, X-ray, or pH probe.
  2. Hiatal hernia – A condition where the upper part of the stomach gets pushed into the chest through the opening present in the diaphragm. It is a type of hernia that causes acid indigestion and heartburn symptoms. Since it’s a serious disease, it requires proper treatment under the supervision of your doctor. The treatment can be either surgery or endoscopy as per your health requirements.
  3. Obesity – It is a condition in which an excessive amount of fat gets collected in the body. Obesity leads to a person being overweight which has adverse effects on health thereby resulting in an increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, and cholesterol levels.
  4. Stomach ulcers – These are painful sores in the stomach lining. Stomach ulcers are caused by damage to the stomach lining, which protects the stomach from excessive acids present there. They are usually treated by giving oral medications, or surgery is carried out if it is more serious as per the doctor’s advice.
  5. Gastritis – It is a condition in which the stomach and esophagus lining is swollen and itchy due to the secretion of excessive acid backward into the esophagus, resulting in difficulty swallowing food and drinks.

However, to know the exact cause of heartburn, refer to the above-stated points. But, if you have frequent heartburn, you should consult your doctor to know the exact cause and treatment.

5. Lifestyle Changes That Help to Manage Heartburn

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Source: Pexels

Following are the various lifestyle changes that help to ease your heartburn:-

  • Don’t eat before bed because it may worsen your heartburn and cause more pain and burning sensation in the upper abdomen. Keep a gap of 2-3 hours before lying and having food.
  • You should limit your alcohol consumption. Alcohol leads to an increase in acid reflux and heartburn. You should try to reduce the amount of alcohol intake or eliminate it to get better results and relief from heartburn.
  • As mentioned above, smoking leads to heartburn. So, try to avoid smoking to get relief from heartburn.
  • Try to eat food slowly with smaller bites to digest it properly, and remember not to overeat.
  • You should maintain a healthy weight to get rid of heartburn. You should try to exercise at least one hour daily and have a proper balanced diet, which will help you reduce excessive weight.
  • Wear loose clothes which don’t put much pressure on your stomach.
  • Try to sleep with your head up for better sleep and less pain in the chest. Also, try practicing meditation, which helps in lowering stress and anxiety.

6. Natural Home Remedies for Heartburn

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Source: Pexels

There are ways in which you can get rid of heartburn naturally at home.

  • Baking soda – It is also known as sodium carbonate, which helps neutralize the excessive acid present in the stomach due to its alkaline nature. You just need to dissolve a small pinch of baking soda in a glass of water and drink it for better results.
  • Chewing gum – It helps temporarily relieve heartburn by reducing the amount of acid in our mouth, and the discomfort caused due to acid reflux.
  • Licorice snack – It is rich in antioxidant and antimicrobial properties, which help relieve heartburn and various serious health conditions such as stomach ulcers, acid reflux, and gastric issues. Moreover, licorice helps in eliminating bacterial infections in the stomach.
  • Apple cider vinegar – It helps prevent bacteria from multiplying in the stomach. Moreover, it helps with weight loss, which is important to eliminate heartburn symptoms.
  • Ginger tea – Ginger tea helps lessen the swelling and inflammation caused in the esophagus due to the backflow of acid again and again in the throat. Due to its anti-inflammatory quality, it helps prevent nausea and difficulty in swallowing food and beverages.
  • Bananas – Bananas are low-acidic fruits that contain soluble fiber that helps the body properly digest food. It provides energy for a long time so that the body can function properly. Moreover, it helps eradicate the excess acid in the stomach, thereby neutralizing its pH levels.
  • Peppermint – Peppermint has a calming effect on the gastrointestinal tract, thereby reducing the irritation and burning sensation caused in the stomach.
  • Coconut water – It helps lessen the discomfort caused in the chest by providing a soothing effect in the esophagus and getting rid of heartburn symptoms such as nausea and burping.

As mentioned earlier, heartburn is a common problem with adverse effects on the body if not treated promptly under a doctor’s supervision. However, sometimes it happens due to eating food quickly or overeating, which is not a serious issue.

But, if you have heartburn symptoms in continuity and they don’t go away, you should seek medical advice from your doctor as soon as possible.

Last Updated on by kalidaspandian

Authors

NITYA KAKKAR
Sathi Chakraborty, MSc Biology

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