When my patients come in complaining of getting burning chest pain after eating spicy food, or burping up hot acid and/or regurgitating food that wakes them up in the middle of the night, almost always they’ll describe their symptoms as “heartburn” or “indigestion”. In some instances they’re correct, but others not. Some patients actually have acid reflux disorder, or GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disorder), which has a different physical cause and requires different treatment than heartburn. What’s the difference? Well, that’s what we’re going to talk about today!
Heartburn is a relatively common condition. In fact, over 60,000,000 Americans have heartburn symptoms at least once a month! Heartburn can occur after eating too much acidic, spicy, or high fat foods at one time like having spaghetti with tomato sauce for dinner, a glass of wine, salad with vinaigrette dressing, and a piece of rich chocolate cake for dessert. Eating like this is almost always a recipe for heartburn that can keep you awake most of the night trying to put out the fire in your chest! You may even burp up hot acid into the back of your throat.
The prime offenders of heartburn are usually the following:
How To Avoid Heartburn
If you’re sensitive to the above foods, and find that eating them brings on a case of heartburn, it’s best then to avoid them. If you have severe heartburn that occurs more than 2 times a week, you may actually have acid reflux, or GERD, a condition that you should see a doctor for. Other ways to avoid triggering heartburn include:
Acid reflux, or GERD, on the other hand, is somewhat more involved than the occasional case of simple heartburn. At the base of your stomach, there is a structure called the lower esophageal sphincter, or LES, a valve that opens and shuts letting acid-digested food pass out of your stomach into your small intestine.
If we eat heavy, oily, acidic dishes, or sometimes, even peppermint, the LES can relax so much that digestive acids reflux, or come back up the esophagus. This refluxed acid usually causes pain and burning. You can also regurgitate swallowed food, begin to cough, sometimes chronically, if acid droplets persistently get into your lungs. In addition, there are several other symptoms that can be caused by acid reflux that may surprise you including:
How To Avoid Acid Reflux Symptoms
Like heartburn, acid reflux can have many of the same triggers including the same foods (see list above), smoking, and/or going to bed or lying down on the couch right after eating a big meal. In addition there are several other things that can bring on a bout of acid reflux including:
What Can You Do – Some Natural Treatments
As I tell my patients, we can all experience a bout of heartburn, or perhaps even acid reflux, on occasion from overindulgence in food and drink. Avoiding, or minimizing, the triggers listed here can help you avoid heartburn and/or acid reflux. However, if you do still get the occasional heartburn or acid reflux, here are some natural remedies you can try on your own:
Heartburn and acid reflux are at best uncomfortable and at worst very painful conditions, which can recur if you continue to indulge in poor dietary and lifestyle habits. Following the suggestions offered here can help you avoid triggering these conditions in the future.
Remember to see your doctor if you experience severe symptoms of heartburn and/or acid reflux 2 or more times a week. Untreated, chronic acid reflux can weaken and damage digestive tract tissues that can lead to more serious conditions.
Mark Rosenberg, M.D.
Health and Wellness News
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