How to Manage Heartburn

a woman experiencing GERD symptoms to symbolize how to manage heartburn

Heartburn is a common condition that nearly everyone will experience at some point in their life. In fact, between 20% – 30% of Americans experience heartburn every week. Symptoms can range in severity but are almost always uncomfortable. Whether you have occasional heartburn or have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), your quality of life may be impacted. To help outline this common condition’s causes and treatment options, we’re focusing on how to manage heartburn symptoms.

What is Heartburn?

Despite its name, heartburn does not affect the heart in any way. Instead, it is a result of stomach acid flowing back into the esophagus. This sensation leads to the uncomfortable burning feeling in the lower area of the chest. Other accompanying symptoms include a sour or bitter taste in the mouth, irritation of the throat, and hoarseness of voice. In some cases, severe heartburn can be problematic because pain and tightness in the chest may make some people feel like they’re having a heart attack. Dizziness, difficulty breathing, and pain in the arm that spreads to the neck, jaw, or back are signs of a heart attack that may accompany chest pain. If you’re having any persistent chest pain, it’s safest to go to the hospital right away. 

What Causes Heartburn?

Occasional heartburn is normal and may occur after eating triggering foods. This is especially common in the evening because heartburn can also be prompted by laying down too quickly after finishing dinner. Heartburn can also be a result of pregnancy or being overweight. Some of the most common triggering foods include:

  • Fatty or fried foods
  • Spicy foods
  • Citrus fruits
  • Chocolate
  • Peppermint
  • Beverages that are alcoholic, carbonated, or highly caffeinated

If you experience frequent heartburn, it may be a symptom of a broader gastrointestinal issue known as gastroesophageal reflux disease. Other conditions that lead to frequent heartburn are inflammation of the stomach lining, a hiatal hernia, and peptic ulcers. For severe or persistent heartburn, the best treatment starts in a gastroenterologist’s office. Both pH tests and an upper endoscopy can help identify the root cause of your frequent heartburn. A treatment plan will depend on the diagnosis and may range from prescription medicine to procedures.

How to Manage Heartburn

There are many different ways to manage heartburn, depending on the primary cause of your symptoms. Cutting back or eliminating trigger foods from your diet, waiting at least three hours after eating to lay down or recline, and elevating your head at night can all help relieve heartburn. Quitting smoking, losing weight, and avoiding tight clothes are also ways to help improve symptoms.  Antacid medications can typically help alleviate heartburn symptoms quickly and these over-the-counter medications are best suited for those who experience occasional heartburn.  If you are experiencing chronic heartburn symptoms, consulting a specialist at Birmingham Gastroenterology is the best course of action for treatment, which may include prescription medication, procedures, or surgery.

Contact Birmingham Gastroenterology

If you are experiencing issues with your digestive system, contact the team at Birmingham Gastroenterology Associates. We can diagnose digestive problems and work with you to help your digestive system regain its normal function. If you are experiencing frequent or persistent heartburn, make an appointment to discuss your symptoms and treatment options.

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