Understanding What Causes of Heartburn

Heartburn is actually a misnomer, as it has nothing to do with your heart. While it may feel like you are having a heart attack, it is really an acid attack in your stomach. Stomach acid, which irritates the lining of the esophagus, is the cause of heartburn and discomfort.

What is heartburn?

The lower esophageal sphincter is what keeps acid in the stomach. This is done by gravity and involves the muscular valve known as the lower esophageal sphincter. This sphincter controls the opening of the stomach to permit food into it. It also allows belching, so that gas may escape. In the case of heartburn, this sphincter does not perform properly and allows stomach acid into the esophagus.

What causes heartburn?

What contributes to the problem with the lower esophageal sphincter? One obvious cause is overeating, which can cause excess pressure on the sphincter. Obesity and pregnancy can cause too much pressure as well. There are common foods that contribute to heartburn. Some of these foods are chocolate, coffee, alcohol, certain citrus fruits, and even garlic or alcohol. Also, foods are high in oils and fats can also cause heartburn.

Smoking is included in the basics of heartburn, because it relaxes the lower esophageal sphincter. And at the same time, stimulates the production of HCl in the stomach. This long term elevated production of acid will damage the lining of the esophagus.

Additional causes of acid reflux or heartburn?

Not surprisingly, many medications directly contribute to the development of heartburn or acid reflux. Pain medications such as ibuprofen, and even aspirin can cause problems for the acid reflux sufferer. Other medications used for the treatment of allergies such as antihistamines can also cause heartburn. What may surprise many, is the inclusion of sleeping pills, potassium, iron, and prednisone as heartburn causing agents.

And of course, one of the largest contributors to heartburn production is stress. In response to stress, most people have a large increase in the production of HCl in their stomach. Over time, this overproduction can lead to more than just intermittent heartburn, with the outcome of GERD or gastroesophageal reflux disease.

Because these symptoms may be more than just the occasional heartburn from spicy foods, you should consult your physician. They will be able to fully evaluate if it’s just heartburn or acid reflux or something much more serious.

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