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Heartburn Facts

Aug 17, 2007
Heartburn, commonly felt as a burning feeling that flows upward from the stomach and rising through the lower chest can spread to the shoulders, neck, and jaw line.

The cause of heartburn is the acid from the stomach moving backwards into the gullet (esophagus).

The esophagus has a valve at the lower end that opens when we swallow and closes once the food has pass through. Sometimes this synchronization goes wrong and the valve does not close at the right time, this is usually after a mean. Behind the valve, food is being mixed with gastric acids for digestion. If the valve is not closed, the acid can reenter the esophagus and create the burning sensation known as heartburn.

For those people that have been diagnosed with acid reflux problems the chances of heartburn following a meal are significantly higher than for other people. The former groups also feel the condition worsening when they lie down or bend forward.

Heartburn is a very uncomfortable feeling and if it becomes regular then it can have serious implications on the quality of life. Sometimes heartburn is merely an indication of some other problem like esophagitis (inflammation in the esophagus) or of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). These conditions are far more serious than heartburn and require longer medication. Consult your doctor if heartburn becomes persistent.

The heartburn sensation really depends on many factors. In very mild cases, it could go away in as little as an hour or so. Moderate to extreme cases can stretch anywhere from weeks to months. Needless to mention, if left untreated this will only get longer and cause all sorts of additional problems. Since heartburn can come and go there is a tendency to simply ignore it as an occasional phenomenon and avoid medical attention.

There are many medicines available for the treatment of heartburn.

Histamines are chemicals that are released in the human body depending on several conditions. When acid production in the body increases the stomach, (already a very acidic place) becomes dangerous. To counter this higher concentration of acid medications that act as acid suppressants are used. These are also called anti-histamines or histamine H2-antagonists.

Proton-pump inhibitors work on the stomach walls. Cells in the stomach wall make acid. Use of proton-pump inhibitors causes these cells to produce lesser acid than they normally would.

Some other medications that are known as pro-kinetic agents increase stomach movement. They increase the pressure on the lower esophageal sphincter and resulting in a prompter emptying of the stomach.

Antacids are probably the most commonly used in the treatment of acid-related problems. These could be heartburn or indigestion. Antacids quite simply neutralize the acid in the stomach.
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