What is heartburn?
Heartburn is an uncomfortable burning/warm sensation felt in your chest and may spread to the throat, jaw, arms or back. This sensation occurs when stomach acid is allowed to rise up from the stomach, past the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) and into the esophagus where the acid irritates and burns. Heartburn typically occurs 30-60 minutes after meals. Heartburn is often mistaken for chest pain due to a heart attack. If a person is ever having chest pain, seek emergency medical attention immediately.
What causes heartburn?
The following may prevent the LES from closing properly and result in heartburn symptoms:
- Certain foods and drinks (chocolate, peppermint, caffeine, onions, tomatoes, citrus fruits, spicy foods, fatty foods and alcohol)
- Prescription medications
- Medical Conditions (hiatal hernia, diabetes, gastroparesis and many autoimmune diseases)
- Increased abdominal pressure (lying down, coughing, tight clothing, obesity, pregnancy)
When to see your doctor?
Occasional heartburn is more of a nuisance than a real health problem, especially around the holidays. For others, heartburn is chronic and may be symptoms of a more serious health problem. If chronic acid reflux is left untreated it can lead to serious complications.
You should see your doctor if your heartburn:
- Occurs two or more times per week
- Wakes you up at night
- Isn’t relieved by Over-the-Counter medications, or when you have to use these medications for longer than 2 weeks
- You have a persistent hoarseness or sore throat
- You have episodes of chocking, coughing, or wheezing
How can you treat heartburn?
There are many over-the-counter remedies that work quickly and effectively for the treatment of occasional heartburn. These include: Tums, Rolaids, Gaviscon, Pepcid and Zantac. Our pharmacists can help you choose which will work best for you. The easiest way to treat mild heartburn is to prevent it, by avoiding trigger foods. When that’s not possible, a large glass of milk can help relieve symptoms.
If you would like help selecting a heartburn remedy, or would like to know more about heartburn and related conditions speak with one of our pharmacists today.