8 Things Your Doctor Wants You To Know About Heartburn
Heartburn sucks. Here’s what you should know about this common condition.
1) Heartburn Symptoms Differ
Do you get warm or burning sensations in the centre of your upper chest? Or do you experience esophageal pain that extends up through the neck and chest? These are all symptoms of heartburn.
These symptoms are due to the regurgitation of gastric acid into the esophagus, which lacks the protective coating that lines the stomach and causes pain.
2) Know Common Causes Of Heartburn
Normal causes for heartburn include an overindulgence in certain foods or drinks (spicy food, red wine) or gastrointestinal compression (as in pregnancy). These causes of heartburn tend to be infrequent, episodic and linked to an identifiable cause.
3) Chronic Heartburn Does Exist
When heartburn is more chronic it's important to explore the underlying causes and screen for other conditions that may be causing your heartburn. Factors like nutrition, hormonal balance, certain lifestyle choices and chronic stress, can affect the balance of stomach acid.
This ultimately affects the function of the lower gastroesophageal sphincter (LES), which normally acts to protect against acid regurgitation.
4) You Might Not Have Enough Stomach Acid
Counterintuitive as it may seem, one of the most common causes of heartburn doctors see is actually too little stomach acid. Usually, this is a frequent side effect of chronic stress. When you don't have enough stomach acid, your body fails to trigger the LES to close, allowing what little acid you have to enter the esophagus.
5) Be Weary of Heartburn Medicine
The most common treatments for heartburn include proton pump inhibitors, such as Losec and Nexium, which reduce the production of stomach acid. These drugs may alter digestion, which requires certain levels of acid to break down food.
Additionally, long-term use has been associated with increased rates of fractures, decreased bone density, low magnesium levels and chronic kidney disease.
6) You Can Cure Heartburn Naturally
Natural remedies typically focus on rebalancing stomach acid and strengthening the LES. Thankfully, these heartburn remedies help correct the underlying cause of your discomfort.
Natural heartburn remedies include apple cider vinegar, digestive bitters or supplements to increase stomach acidity or improve the tone of the LES.
7) You Might Need To Your Medical Practitioner
Apple cider vinegar and bitters are fine as natural, over-the-counter home remedies for infrequent heartburn. For anything more frequent, you should see a qualified healthcare practitioner.
This is because even though you can manage heartburn symptoms, other factors (such as digestive issues or malabsorption) may continue to affect you. Your practitioner will help you address the underlying issue of your heartburn.
8) Heartburn Has Links to Esophageal Cancer
Isolated incidents of heartburn are not cause for concern, but chronic acid reflux (GERD) can damage the esophagus. In some cases, this can increase your risk of esophageal cancer.
Seek medical help if heartburn occurs more than twice a week, is unresponsive to over-the-counter medications, or causes difficulty swallowing.
Dr. Krystina Patton, ND, is the assistant clinical director at Helix Healthcare Group, helixhealthcaregroup.com