Heartburn is a burning sensation with pain in your chest, behind the breastbone, which worsens after eating, lying down, or bending over.
Experiencing occasionally heartburn is not a cause of concern, and people can manage the discomfort through self-care, lifestyle changes and over-the-counter medications.
When heartburn happens more frequently, interfering and limiting your daily activities indicates a more severe condition requiring medical care.
Heartburn signs can include burning chest pain which mostly happens after meals and may occur at night. The pain worsens while lying down or bending over and causes a bitter or acidic taste in the mouth.
Get medical advice immediately when you have severe chest pain or pressure, combined with pain in the arm or jaw or experience difficulty in breathing.
Chest pain can be a symptom of a heart attack; visit your doctor if your heartburn happens more than twice a week, and it persists even after taking the over-the-counter medications.
Also, if you have difficulty swallowing, persistent nausea or vomiting and notice weight loss because of poor appetite or difficulty eating, get timely medical assistance.
Heartburn is caused by the stomach acid that backs up into the tube that carries food from the mouth to your stomach (esophagus). Usually, when swallowing food, a band of muscle around the bottom of the esophagus (lower esophageal sphincter) eases to let food and liquid flow down into your stomach. After that, the muscle tightens again.
However, when the lower esophageal sphincter loosens abnormally or relaxes, stomach acid might flow back up into your esophagus (acid reflux), resulting in heartburn. This acid backup can worsen when you're bent over or lying down.
Some foods and drinks increase the chance of heartburn, such as spicy foods, tomato products, onions, citrus products, fatty or fried foods, peppermint, chocolate, large or fatty meals. Also, alcohol, carbonated beverages, coffee or other caffeinated beverages can cause heartburn. Being overweight or pregnant also raises your risk of experiencing heartburn.
When heartburn occurs frequently, it may interfere with the routine and is known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). GERD might severely damage your esophagus or lead to precancerous changes in the esophagus called Barrett's esophagus. Its treatment needs medications; occasionally, surgery is required or other procedures.
Some lifestyle changes can help prevent heartburn; these are:
• Eating food in smaller portions but have more frequent meals.
• Don't eat before bedtime.
• Eliminate or limit alcohol intake.
• Avoid taking aspirin, ibuprofen, and caffeine.
• Quit smoking
• Raise the head of your bed or put two or three pillows underneath to let gravity keeping acid in the stomach and withdraw acid reflux.
Chief Arthur Mbanefo, 91 years old, former ambassador to the UN and Representative of Nigeria, thanks the American Hospital Dubai for the excellent medical treatment and personalized care he received.