- Heartburn is the most common symptom of gastroesophageal reflux or acid
reflux (also known as "acid indigestion" or in more serious cases, "GERD", gastroesophageal
- It starts as a burning pain behind the breastbone and travels upward to
- Often there is also a sensation of food coming back into the mouth, accompanied
by an acidic or bitter taste.
- Heartburn is caused when a muscle between the esophagus and stomach weakens or relaxes, inappropriately allowing stomach acid and/or undigested food to pass back into the esophagus.
- More than 60 million Americans suffer from heartburn at least once a month.
About 25 million Americans experience it daily.
- Heartburn usually occurs after meals, but it may also occur with stress
or at night.
- Heartburn is more common among the elderly, as well as among pregnant women.
- Other symptoms of GERD include persistent sore throat, hoarseness, chronic
cough, asthma, chest pain, or feeling a lump in the throat.
- Frequent heartburn 2 or more times per week, may be associated with chronic gastroesophageal reflux and a more serious condition called "GERD", gastroesophageal reflux disease.
- Chronic gastroesophageal reflux may cause serious problems including erosive esophagitis, Barrett's esophagus (a pre-cancerous condition), or ultimately, esophageal cancer.
What can you do to treat it?
First, try over-the-counter medications along with lifestyle changes:
- Don't lie down for 3 hrs after eating.
- Avoid foods, drinks or medicines that aggravate heartburn, such as fried
or fatty foods, chocolate, coffee, sodas, citrus fruits, tomato products and
- Eat smaller portions at mealtimes.
- Wear loose fitting clothing.
- Maintain a normal body weight.
- Stop smoking.
If over-the-counter medicines and lifestyle changes don't eliminate your heartburn,
see your doctor. There are now several prescription medicines that may help. These prescription medicines fall into two categories:
- H2 receptor antagonists, which work by decreasing the flow of stomach acid.
- Proton Pump Inhibitors, which decrease the flow of stomach acid to a greater degree.
For more information, check out Dr. Donnica's Women's Health Resources for Gastrointestinal Disorders.
Created: 3/30/2001  - Donnica Moore, M.D.