If you have a pain in the chest that is a burning sensation, especially after eating a large or spicy meal, it is likely heartburn. For people who tend to have heartburn, eating and drinking can cause your body to react in uncomfortable ways.
An occasional bout of heartburn is nothing to worry about – it is usually easily treated by chewing antacid tablets and/or taking an over-the counter heartburn medicine. These can include Prilosec, Pepcid, Prevacid, Zantac, Mylanta, or Pepto-Bismol. If you are getting heartburn more often than before, it is best to make minor lifestyle changes such as limiting your intake of acidic drinks or foods.
If your heartburn is not improving or occurring with reduced frequency, it may be gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). This is a more severe digestive issue that should be addressed by a skilled gastroenterologist.
What Causes Heartburn?
When stomach acid backs up into the esophagus because the lower esophageal sphincter is relaxing or has become weak, this causes heartburn. This can happen especially if you are bending over or lying down soon after eating a large or medium-sized meal.
The stomach acid, which is meant for digestion in the stomach, burns the esophagus when it flows upward. Heartburn is often accompanied by a bitter taste in the mouth.
The problem that can happen over time is that this acid can cause permanent damage to the esophagus. GERD can also cause a precancerous condition called Barrett’s esophagus. The treatment for GERD is prescription medication and, if necessary, surgery.
Tips to Reduce Heartburn
There are several easy ways for you to reduce or eliminate your heartburn, including the following:
These over-the-counter tasty treatments, such as Tums and Rolaids, help neutralize stomach acid when you are having an episode of heartburn. They provide quick relief, but they do not help to fix the issue if you have an overall problem that is turning into GERD.
Make Lifestyle Changes
It is important to maintain a healthy weight in order to prevent heartburn from worsening into GERD. Excess body fat puts pressure on the stomach and forces stomach acid to back up into the esophagus, so it is a good idea to lose weight to control your heartburn.
Do not lie down within about three hours after you eat a meal. This way, the process of digestion has calmed down and the stomach acid is not liable to accidentally move back up into the esophagus.
Avoid smoking and drinking alcohol. Both of these habits inhibit the sphincter’s ability to be strong and function properly.
Alter your schedule to eat smaller meals throughout the day instead of one or two large meals. You will notice heartburn occurring after eating a large meal, whereas it may stop if you lessen your intake of food each time you eat.
Also, avoid wearing tight-fitting clothing. This can put pressure on the abdomen and lower esophageal sphincter, thereby causing heartburn symptoms.
If you are traveling and you have an episode of heartburn, stop and get a ginger tea, milk, or yogurt. Any of these will coat your stomach and reduce the heartburn. Be sure to sit upright or stand, but do not lie down after eating or drinking.
Experienced Gastroenterologists in Austin
If you or someone you know is having heartburn symptoms that are getting worse, contact our caring team at Austin Gastroenterology to schedule an appointment.
Call us today at our office closest to you, or request an appointment online now. Let us help you quell your heartburn for good so you can start enjoying eating again!