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Heartburn; a Burning Sensation

Aug 18, 2007
What is heartburn?

Heartburn, also called acid indigestion and acid reflux, is the most common symptom of gastroesophageal reflux disease, commonly referred to as GERD. It occurs when the acids from absorbing foods back up into the lower throat region. The refluxed stomach acid touches the lining of the esophagus, causing a burning sensation in the chest or throat. Although it can be a nuisance at any time of day, for most people it is worse after a meal at night.

Acid Reflux affects millions of people daily. Ten percent of the population suffers from it at least once a week, and twenty-five percent of pregnant women experience daily heartburn. Other causes of heartburn are lying down after a meal, bending over, and a persistent hiatal hernia.

Its symptoms

Symptoms of acid reflux may include persistent sore throat, hoarseness, chronic cough, asthma, heart-like chest pain and a feeling of a lump in the throat. It feels like a burning chest pain beginning behind the breastbone and moving upward to the neck and throat. Heartburn pain can be mistaken for the pain associated with heart disease or a heart attack, but there are differences. Acid reflux disease can cause a number of symptoms in addition to heartburn, including: Regurgitation, a bitter or sour taste at the back of your throat, belching, bloating and early satiety (feeling full too soon).

The burning, pressure, or pain of heartburn can last as long as 2 hours and is often worse after eating. Elevating the head of the bed on 6-inch blocks or sleeping on a specially designed wedge reduces heartburn by allowing gravity to minimize reflux of stomach contents into the esophagus.

Foods That Trigger Heartburn and Acid Reflux

Find out what foods in your diet can aggravate heartburn and acid reflux. Certain foods and beverages to avoid are chocolate, fried or fatty foods, coffee, alcoholic beverages, and acidic foods.

Common foods that can worsen reflux symptoms include citrus fruits, garlic and onions, mint flavorings, spicy foods, tomato-based foods, like spaghetti sauce, salsa, chili, and pizza.


Antacids, such as Alka-Seltzer, Maalox, Mylanta, Rolaids, and Riopan, are usually the first drugs recommended for quick relief of heartburn and other mild GERD symptoms. Antacids taken regularly can neutralize acid in the esophagus and stomach and stop heartburn. However, because antacids are short acting and do not prevent heartburn, they are less useful for frequent or severe heartburn.

Herbal remedies can include ginger, and even chamomile, but a natural cure for heartburn could be as simple as opening your food cupboard as many healthy foods are well known for their beneficial effects on our internal system.

Decreasing the size of portions at mealtime may also help control symptoms. Smoking is also a contributor of GERD symptoms and should be eliminated if symptoms persist. Testing your pH regularly is helpful in monitoring the acidity level of the esophagus.

Over time, patterns can be established and many people report elimination or reduction of acid reflux symptoms after changing their diet accordingly to eliminate problematic food or drink.

Medical Treatment

See your health care provider if you have had symptoms of GERD and have been using antacids or other over-the-counter reflux medications for more than 2 weeks.

Proton pump inhibitors and H2 blockers can relieve symptoms and heal the esophageal lining in almost everyone who has GERD. Because drugs work in different ways, combinations of medications may help control symptoms. If your symptoms do not improve with lifestyle changes or medications, you may need additional tests. Endoscopic techniques used to treat chronic heartburn include the Bard Endo Cinch system, NDO Plicator, and the Stretta system.

Surgery is an option when medicine and lifestyle changes do not help to manage GERD symptoms.
About the Author
Ann Stewart, author, inspirational writer and wellness coach, shares tips on how to fight off disease and feel your best in her weekly newsletter, Youth Makeover: Youth Makeover Who is she? Find out at: As the Eagle. You're welcome to subscribe to her free weekly inspirational newsletter: Life Altering Words
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