Heartburn is one of the most common gastrointestinal problems and is suffered by more than 40% of the population in the USA. It is a very uncomfortable condition and can make your life a misery. Fortunately, there are many treatments available but it is important to understand what causes it and what risks are associated with treatment.

The causes of heartburn and acid reflux

Heartburn is a symptom, it describes the way that you feel when you have acid reflux. It is a burning feeling in the chest, traveling up to the throat. Acid reflux is caused when then esophageal sphincter (LES) muscle either relaxes or is too weak to prevent stomach acid traveling up the esophagus (the tube between your mouth and your stomach).

There are many things that can trigger an acid reflux attack. Around 95% of people associate it with a particular food. Attacks can be triggered by:

  • Overeating
  • Alcohol and tobacco
  • Pressure on the stomach from pregnancy or obesity
  • Stress and lack of sleep
  • Highly-acidic, high-fat or oily foods

Treating heartburn

Most cases of heartburn can be treated by making alterations to your normal diet and breaking the habit of eating foods that trigger it in the first place.

An effective heartburn diet eliminates these foods and includes high-fibre, low-fat options as alternatives.

There are some foods that will help to prevent heartburn and they include apples and bananas, baked potatoes and broccoli. These foods are also good for your overall health.

You can also help yourself by leaving an interval of at least two hours between eating and going to bed and cutting down on drinking fizzy sodas, alcohol, and smoking. Some people have found that losing weight, sleeping on their side, and chewing gum has also helped.

Medications for heartburn

There are many remedies that you can take for heartburn but it is wise to check with a doctor before you do so. There is some recent research that indicates that some antacids can lead to an increased risk of fractures during childhood so these should only be taken by a child under the supervision of a doctor. If you want any further information on damages following medication use, TruLaw.com has information you need.

Antacids are a popular choice of treatment. They work by neutralizing the acid and preventing it from irritating the sensitive tissue in the esophagus. H2 blockers work in a slightly different way. They decrease acid production and so they help heal the esophagus. You can buy many H2 blockers over-the-counter or you can get them from a doctor.

It is possible to take antacids and H2 blockers at the same time. The antacid neutralizes stomach acid already present whilst the H2 blocker stops your stomach from making any more.

Proton pump inhibitors lower the amount of acid your stomach makes and are highly effective. They also help to heal the esophageal lining. However, if you take them for a long time, you do increase your risk of fractures.