If you’ve ever felt a burning in your chest along with an acidic taste in your mouth which may also include a raspy sore throat or unexplained cough…you may be experiencing heartburn.
Heartburn is where the acid in your stomach seeps into your esophagus. This can happen either because your stomach is producing an increased amount of acid, or the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) relaxes and acid is able to seep through.
Heartburn is a common condition that affects many people. More than 60% of the adult population suffer from heartburn pain at least once a year. Here are some more surprising facts about heartburn and how you can manage your symptoms.
Unhealthy foods are the only foods that cause heartburn.
FALSE: While foods high in fat do increase the amount of acid in the stomach which can lead to acid reflux, there are many other foods that can potentially cause heartburn as well. Some include alcohol, caffeine, citrus fruits, and even chocolate.
Separately, some medicines might also make you more susceptible to heartburn because they change the acid production in your stomach.
As long as I use over the counter medicines, it will take care of my heartburn.
FALSE: A doctor will be able to help you find the right medication to tackle your symptoms, including sorting through the right over the counter medication. Some examples of treatment include antacids, which are the quickest to give you immediate relief. Histamine blockers take longer, and the proton pump inhibitors take the longest to work. However, even though some medicines like antacids work faster, they don’t last as long.
If you take your medication like the proton pump inhibitors for longer than three weeks, it could potentially damage your kidneys. Your physician will be able to provide prescription medications, if needed.
One way to minimize the chance of heartburn is to avoid eating close to bedtime.
TRUE: If you overeat at dinner, it may cause the opening separating your stomach and esophagus to relax. When you lie down right after, being in the horizontal position means that there is a higher chance for acid to seep into your esophagus and cause heartburn.
Heartburn is a minor condition and not something I need to worry about.
FALSE: There are potential complications that can happen when you leave chronic heartburn untreated. It could also mean other more serious conditions. If it happens all the time, you could develop ulcers. It could also result in a narrowing of the esophagus which makes it harder for you to swallow. In some extreme cases, the acid changes the cells in your esophagus which could lead to cancer.
If you do have chronic heartburn that does not go away, you can talk to one of the physicians at Doctor on Demand to make sure it is not something more serious. We will also be able to prescribe treatment to help you feel better.
Reduced costs may be available through your insurance plan or employer. Learn more or start a virtual visit at Doctor On Demand.
About the author
Dr. Tony Yuan is a Doctor On Demand physician who received his bachelor’s degree from Cornell University and his medical degree from the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine. He completed his emergency medicine residency at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, NC and has been practicing emergency medicine in California for over 17 years. Dr. Yuan has treated tens of thousands of patients during his career as an emergency physician, handling traumas and a wide variety of acute and non-acute illnesses and injuries.