Heartburn is the condition characterize by the presence of burning sensation in the heart due to reflux of acid from the stomach to the esophagus. Heartburn may be episodic or persistent. The common causes of heartburn are due to faulty eating habits and poor lifestyle. Some cases of heartburn are also caused due to underlying conditions such as pregnancy and hiatal hernia. Symptoms include nausea, sour taste in mouth and difficulty swallowing.
On the basis of continuity of the symptoms of heartburn, it is divided into the following two types:
- Episodic or occasional or acute heartburn: This type of heartburn is caused infrequently and is predictable in most of the patients. For instance, a person knows that after eating spicy food, he may develop heartburn. The treatment of such heartburn is generally antacids, more preferably in the liquid form.
- Persistent or chronic heartburn: This type of heartburn is chronic, and the symptoms are frequently encountered by the patients. The symptoms of persistent heartburn are more severe as compared to acute heartburn.
- Eating spicy and oily foods
- Caffeinated and carbonated beverages
- Taking dinner just before going to bed.
- Chest pain
- Burning sensation
- Difficulty swallowing
- Sour taste in the mouth
- Food sticking in the throat
Ways to diagnose
Following are the diagnostic techniques used for diagnosing heartburn:
- Endoscopy: Endoscopy is done to analyze the health of the esophagus and the severity of tissue damage.
- Esophageal pH: Esophageal pH test can be done to identify the level of acid reflux.
- Imaging techniques: Imaging techniques such as CT Scan or X-ray can be done to evaluate the health of esophagus and stomach.
- Esophageal mobility: As acid damages the tissue of esophagus, tests are performed to estimate the motility. Reduced motility may lead to difficulty swallowing.
Risks if neglect
Following are the complications of heartburn:
- GERD: Chronic irritation in the stomach due to acid and reflux of the acid into the esophagus and throat may lead to GERD.
- Ulcer: When the stomach and esophagus are exposed to the acid for a long period, it may lead to the stomach as well as an esophageal ulcer.
- Bleeding: The ulcer, if not managed, may lead to bleeding. This may be characterized by bloody stools.
- Esophagitis: Chronic and persistent acid reflux may inflame the esophagus and scarring of the esophageal tissue causing esophagitis.
Heartburn is a progressive disease and the severity of the symptoms increases as the disease progresses. Following are the stages of heartburn:
- Stage I: In this stage, the patient feels infrequent pain in the chest. The stage can be managed by antacids.
- Stage II: This stage is characterized by the presence of severe pain just behind the breastbone. The frequency of such symptoms is more as compared to stage I.
- Stage III: This stage is characterized by the reflux of acid from the stomach, which causes irritation in the throat. People also experience sour mouth taste in this stage.
Foods to eat and avoid
Foods to eat:
- Fennel seed
- Healthy Fats
- Fibrous food
- Leafy vegetables such as spinach
- Aloe Vera
Foods to avoid:
- Spicy food
- Processed food
- Artificial sweetener
- Carbonated drinks
- Incorporate fibroid foods and juices in your diet.
- Stick to exercise and meditation.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Do not ignore slightest of symptoms.
- Walk for a while after dinner.
- Do not overeat.
- Avoid spicy and oily food and stay away from smoking and alcohol.
When to see a doctor
Visit your doctor if:
- You have unexplained weight loss.
- You have abdominal pain.
- You have the feeling of nausea.
- You have bloody stools.
- Your heartburn symptoms do not go away even after taking medications.
- You have difficulty swallowing.
- You have difficulty performing routine activities.
- You have any other uncommon symptom.
Do’s & Don’ts
- Take a walk after having dinner.
- Incorporate fresh fruits in your diet.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Do meditation to avoid stress.
- Eat small portions frequently.
- Add fibrous food in the diet.
- Maintain your weight.
- Do not eat too spicy or too oily food.
- Do not go to bed just after dinner.
- Avoid caffeinated and carbonated beverages.
- Do not take medications of your own.
- Do not overeat.
- Avoid alcohol and smoking.
Risks for specific people
People who have the habit of eating spicy and oily food are more likely to have heartburn. Other risk factors for heartburn include obesity and overeating. Going to bed just after dinner also increases the risk of heartburn. People on aspirin and other NSAIDs are at increased risk of developing heartburn. Heartburn is also commonly seen in pregnancy.
Following are the home remedies that help you to get rid of heartburn:
- Baking soda: ½ teaspoon baking soda is dissolved in ½ cup of water. Drink this mixture by sipping. This will help in neutralizing stomach acid.
- Licorice: Licorice comes in the form of powder, candy or tea. It helps in increasing the mucosal coating of the intestinal wall.
- Ginger: A small piece of ginger is boiled in water. Strain the water and allow it to get warm. Add lemon juice and honey to ginger water and drink the liquid by sipping.
- Chamomile: Drink a cup of chamomile tea prior to going to bed. It will manage the acidic imbalance and also helps in reducing stress.
- Drink plenty of water: Water helps in diluting the acid and reducing the impact of the concentrated acid on the stomach as well as on the intestinal lining.
- Fennel extract: Take 2 teaspoons of fennel seed and add boiling water in it. Leave it for 10-15 minutes and strain. Drink the liquid on an empty stomach.
- Mint: Incorporate mint or other herbs in your food while cooking.
- Eat small frequent meals: Overeating or eating a large amount of food at one go increases indigestion and heartburn. Thus, you should eat small, frequent meals.
- Coconut water: Coconut water, in the quantity of about 200 ml to 300 ml should be taken daily.
- Pomegranate: Pomegranate juice and pomegranate chutney balance the altered acid level of the stomach.