Does spicy food make you clutch your chest in pain? Do you experience a burning in your throat and chest after eating or while lying down? If so, then chances are you are dealing with heartburn (also referred to as acid reflux). Most people will experience heartburn symptoms at least once in their life; however, it’s those who experience symptoms at least twice a week that should be visiting our gastroenterologists.
What is heartburn?
Whenever we eat, this food travels through the esophagus to the stomach. Once the food has exited the esophagus, the sphincter at the lower end of the esophagus closes to prevent food from going back through; however, if this sphincter is weakened it may not close, which means that the food and stomach acid will travel back up through the esophagus, causing heartburn.
What are the symptoms?
The most obvious symptom of heartburn is a burning sensation in the chest. Drinking alcohol or coffee, or eating spicy, fried, greasy or processed foods often exacerbates this condition. You may notice that the burning or gnawing feeling gets worse after a large meal or when lying down. Along with this telltale symptom, you may also experience:
- Painful or difficulty swallowing
- The sensation that something is stuck in your throat
- A persistent sore throat
- A dry cough
How is heartburn treated?
Fortunately, there are many ways to reduce your symptoms and to prevent heartburn from causing long-term damage to the lining of the esophagus. Heartburn treatment often includes a combination of lifestyle modifications and medications to keep symptoms under control and to help heal any damage. Lifestyle modifications include avoiding alcohol, eating a healthy, heartburn-friendly diet, reducing portion sizes and losing weight (if necessary).
The goal of prescription and over-the-counter heartburn medications is to reduce acid production, neutralize these acids or even block acid production altogether (which is particularly important if you have esophageal damage). If these treatments haven’t controlled your heartburn symptoms, then surgery may be necessary.
Interested in Heartburn treatment from Alaska Digestive and Liver Disease?
Call our Anchorage, AK office at (907) 569-1333 today!