Most people have experienced or will experience heartburn (acid reflux) at some point in their life, which can be extremely uncomfortable. It is most commonly described as a painful burning sensation located behind the sternum or breastbone. Knowing more about the causes and treatments of heartburn may help you minimize its occurrence or be able to avoid it completely.
Although its name suggests otherwise, heartburn actually has nothing to do with the heart. Heartburn occurs when stomach acid refluxes back into your esophagus. The esophagus is the tube that connects your mouth to your stomach and is made of various muscles that work together to push food toward the stomach. The stomach, where food combines with acid and enzymes for digestion, is lined with protective cells which prevent the acid from causing inflammation. However, the esophagus does not contain these protective cells, so refluxed acid cause’s inflammation and damages its lining.
The pain of heartburn can remain in the lower chest or may radiate to the back of the throat and be associated with a sour taste in the back of the throat. If there is acid reflux near the voice box in your throat, it may cause coughing episodes or hoarseness. Reflux over prolonged periods of time can even be severe enough to wear away the enamel on teeth and cause decay.
The chance of acid reflux can be increased by the consumption of common foods, drinks, and over the counter medicines, which all act to stimulate increased stomach acid production. Examples include, alcohol, caffeine, aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, carbonated drinks, acidic juices (orange, pineapple), acidic foods (tomatoes, oranges, grapefruit), and chocolate. So if you are prone to acid reflux, I suggest you monitor your intake of such items. Other lifestyle habits have also been linked to acid reflux such as smoking and eating of high-fat content.
In addition to lifestyle changes such as avoiding trigger foods and beverages, there are several other ways to deal with heartburn. The most common are to take antacid medications after meals or when needed. There are two kinds of antacid medications, histamine h2 antagonists, and proton pump inhibitors. Histamine H2 antagonists such as Tagamet, Zantac, and Pepcid block the action of histamine, which is a chemical signal that stimulates stomach cells to produce acid. Proton pump inhibitors such as Prilosec, Nexium, and Prevacid also work to block the production of acid in the stomach. However, if you are not into buying pharmaceuticals there are several home remedies that have shown to help reduce heartburn. These include; chewing gum, drinking about of ½ of a teaspoon of baking soda in water, eating a banana or apple, ginger root tea, mustard, almonds, and chamomile tea.