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The #1 Thing People Get Wrong About Heartburn

The #1 Thing People Get Wrong About Heartburn

Heartburn is a common symptom experienced by millions of Americans. In fact, it has been reported that heartburn is a symptom experienced at least one time per month by over 60 million people in America.

So what exactly is heartburn? If you ask 10 people this question, you may receive 10 different answers. One of the most common misconceptions about heartburn, especially chronic heartburn, is that it is a normal part of life.

Heartburn is not just a normal part of life

Many people believe that heartburn is normal and that you just have to live with it. This is not the case.

Heartburn can be a symptom of a more serious underlying condition. Once diagnosed, many treatment options are available. If you experience heartburn very sparingly it may just mean that perhaps something you ate or maybe overate, caused your stomach acid to move up into your esophagus. If you rarely experience heartburn, then it is typically not a serious concern.

However, if your heartburn episodes become more frequent, occur regularly, or you have additional symptoms, then it is important to get evaluated. Heartburn is not something that should be ignored.

Heartburn defined

Heartburn is that burning feeling that you can feel in your throat or chest that is caused by acid from your stomach refluxing into your esophagus. You may even experience that burning sensation and strange taste in your mouth when the acid content refluxes farther up.

Heartburn is one of the most common symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). GERD occurs when the sphincter between the esophagus and the duodenum (the first part of the small intestine) becomes too relaxed. This sphincter is called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES).

If left untreated, GERD can lead to disorders such as peptic ulcer disease, erosive gastritis, Barrett’s esophagus, and esophageal cancer.

Disorders that can feel like heartburn

While you may feel that the symptoms you are experiencing are heartburn caused by GERD, there are other possible conditions that cause similar symptoms. Conditions that mimic symptoms of GERD include chest pain, gallbladder disorders, stomach ulcers, anxiety, hiatal hernia, gastroparesis, or esophageal cancer.

What to do if you have heartburn

If you are experiencing symptoms of heartburn, it is important to talk to your healthcare provider. Your healthcare provider can examine and evaluate you to determine if your symptoms are consistent with GERD or another condition. Once the diagnosis is made, then a treatment plan can be implemented.

Treatment for heartburn

Treatment for heartburn varies based on symptoms and severity. Lifestyle modifications and medications are often the mainstays of treatment.

Lifestyle modification:

Diet changes: Eliminating foods with caffeine and other acidic foods helps prevent heartburn. This includes coffee, chocolates, and citric fruits. In addition, it is important to avoid spicy foods, which are often acidic and can irritate the lining of the esophagus. Fatty foods are another common trigger of acid reflux that should be avoided.

Physical changes: There are several physical changes you can make to help prevent heartburn. Sitting upright for at least two hours prior to going to bed can reduce gravity’s effects on stomach contents because your food will start to digest and move out of the stomach. You can try elevating the head of your bed and sleeping on your left side. Both of these changes help keep acid from refluxing back into the esophagus.
Additionally, avoiding tight-fighting clothes and heavy lifting can reduce the amount of pressure on your LES to help keep acid in your stomach.


Antacids: TUMS and other antacid medications are useful in providing immediate relief of heartburn symptoms. Antacids help reduce the acid level in the stomach. Antacids are typically available over the counter.

Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs): Omeprazole is a type of medication called a proton pump inhibitor. This class of medication is often the initial medication prescribed to help prevent the symptoms of GERD.

H2 blockers: Ranitidine is a commonly known medication prescribed to treat GERD. Ranitidine belongs to a medication class known as H2 blockers, which helps reduce the amount of acid produced in the stomach.

It is important to remember that you do not have to suffer from heartburn. The proper diagnosis and treatment can help you avoid that uncomfortable heartburn sensation and prevent future problems.

Don’t let heartburn negatively impact your quality of life – schedule an appointment today!

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