Heartburn is one of those conditions that you are either completely ignorant of or haunts you on a daily basis. Also known as acid indigestion, it is experienced by millions of Americans on a yearly basis.
Often times, these people do not even know that what they are experiencing is heartburn. They simply describe it as “chest pain”. Yet heartburn is actually a very real, separate, and even treatable condition that often goes undiagnosed. Once you understand what it is and what the symptoms are, it is generally relatively easy to address it through pharmaceutical or even natural means.
What is Heartburn?
Believe it or not, as much as 45% of individuals have experienced either acute or chronic heartburn at some point in their lives. It is characterized by pain that usually begins in the chest, and can spread to the neck, jaw, and throat.
Usually this is caused by the regurgitation of gastric acid (as in gastric reflux disease). It can also be a symptom of something more serious such as Ischemic Heart Disease, and if it does not go away in short order, it should be examined by a licensed physician.
Often times, once heart disease is excluded as a possibility, heartburn is treated as a gastric disorder. Gastro esophageal reflux disease is the most common cause of heartburn, though there is also “functional heartburn” which is due to unknown causes.
Heartburn is usually characterized by a distinct burning feeling in the chest, and it often occurs after eating or at nighttime. It is generally made worse by bending over or laying down. Triggers include consuming large quantities of food, specific foods high in fat or acid, or certain spices. When combined with difficulty swallowing, it may be indicative of esophageal spasms.
Pharmaceutical Treatment for Heartburn
Often times, the pharmaceutical treatment of heartburn depends on the underlying causes. Medicines such as H2 receptor antagonists and proton pump inhibitors are generally prescribed for strong heartburn resulting from GERD or gastritis, and these are two of the most common causes of heartburn.
Natural Treatment for Heartburn
Avoid drinking alcohol, as this can irritate your stomach lining and cause heartburn. It can also directly lead to overeating, which is another known cause of overeating. Whether sober or intoxicated, avoid eating too much in one sitting. Rather, eat at a slow pace so that your body has time to signal to your mind that it is full. If you chew slower, you will also produce more saliva, which has been shown to help neutralize stomach acid.
Increase your fiber intake. Not only does a diet high in fiber help prevent heartburn, but it also may minimize the risk of esophageal cancer. It seems fiber traps noxious substances in your stomach and prevents them from making their way back up.
Both of these approaches are also very conducive to losing weight, which will in turn help you consume less calories and smaller meals. Individuals with a healthy BMI have been shown to be far less likely to experience heartburn than those that are overweight or obese.