An introduction to heartburn
Heartburn can be described as an intense burning feeling felt in the chest behind the breast bone and is often a result of indigestion or acid reflux.
Indigestion, meaning improper digestion, arises when food hasn’t properly broken down in the stomach. There are many causes of indigestion including dietary habits, lifestyle factors such as stress and medical conditions or medication. Indigestion often results in acid reflux, which can give rise to the painful sensation we call heartburn.
Heartburn can occur occasionally after over-indulging or in certain situations such as in pregnancy or while participating in a high impact sports. It is often a rare episode and not much cause for concern.
However, if you are finding that heartburn is a common occurrence, this could indicate a more long-term issue which is something to be aware of.
What causes heartburn?
At the joint between the stomach and the oesophagus there is a circular muscle called the lower oesophageal sphincter (LOS). This muscle relaxes in order to allow the food you eat pass into the stomach and closes again to prevent the contents travelling backwards.
This important sphincter can malfunction for many reasons as we discuss below. These factors can be described as the main causes of heartburn.
Click the links above to find out more on the different causes of heartburn.
What are the symptoms of heartburn?
There are a range of symptoms associated with heartburn as the acidic contents of your stomach make contact with your oesophagus. These symptoms can vary across different people and in severity.
The symptoms of acid reflux and heartburn are often used interchangeably; however, generally heartburn is classed as a symptom of acid reflux and is therefore less complex. Some common symptoms of heartburn are as follows:
- Pain in your chest situated underneath your breast bone. As the name suggests, this is often described as a burning sensation and often occurs fairly soon after eating
- Pain travelling up towards your throat
- Belching or hiccups
- Nausea or even vomiting
It is important to take note of how regularly your symptoms are occurring as recurrent episodes of heartburn should not be ignored.
Episodes of indigestion on a regular basis (and giving rise to heartburn) may suggest there is a problem with your levels of stomach acid which can be problematic for a number of reasons.
What remedies are available for heartburn?
There are various approaches to tackling your heartburn:
Bitter herbs – Digestisan is a licensed herbal product for the relief of indigestion and its associated symptoms such heartburn. The combination of bitter herbs helps to balance your levels of stomach acid, as an imbalance is a common cause of heartburn.
Silicol® gel – Silicol® gel can offer you some relief from the harsh effects of the backward flow of stomach acid.
- Conventional medicines – There are some conventional medicines available, however, it is important to attempt to understand the cause of your symptoms in order to avoid potentially making your problem worse in the long-term
Click the above links to learn more about the treatments of heartburn.
When should I approach my doctor?
In most cases heartburn is an occasional issue, or it can be managed reasonably well with appropriate dietary and lifestyle measures.
However, if your symptoms are severe or persistent, it might be worth paying your doctor a visit. There may be some other underlying cause which should be investigated and any necessary treatments or medication can be discussed.
It is important to note that existing medication may have side effects, many of which can affect your stomach. Be sure to always read the patient information leaflet.