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Heartburn Causes and Cures
photo of man holding his chest | GI North

If you are unsure what is causing your heartburn, keep a diary and track your food and behavior to find patterns.

Heartburn or acid reflux is a common occurrence for most Americans, and whether it is a minor annoyance or affects your daily activities, there are several usual causes that you can cure with lifestyle changes.

Defining the Problem

Heartburn is a reaction from stomach acid entering the esophagus when the LES (lower esophageal sphincter) does not function properly. This valve keeps acid in the stomach and opens to allow food in or gas out, but if it opens too often or doesn’t close tight enough, you can experience a burning sensation in your lower chest or throat.

Usual Causes

Food. Most occasional sufferers notice a correlation to the food they eat. While any food can affect people differently, there are a few foods that are more likely to cause irritation.

  • Tomatoes
  • Citrus fruit and orange juice
  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Spicy food
  • Black pepper
  • Chocolate
  • Peppermint
  • Caffeinated drinks (coffee, tea, soda)
  • Alcohol

Additionally, any meals high in fat and oil can have a negative effect, and meal size is a major factor. Regardless of what you are eating, eating before bed or lying down and eating large meals are the most common causes.

Behavior and Emotion. Unfortunately, like your eating habits, your other daily habits and your emotional state can affect your suffering. Smoking is a major contributing factor to acid reflux as well as stress and a lack of sleep. Additionally, exercise can aggravate the LES.

Conditions. Other reasons you may suffer are due to medical conditions.

Medications. Unfortunately, more often than naught, medicine designed to help one condition causes undesirable side effects. Common medicines that can cause acid reflux include:

  • Aspirin
  • NSAIDS (ibuprofen, naproxen)
  • Blood pressure medication
  • Sedatives
  • Narcotics
  • Progesterone
  • Chemotherapy drugs
  • Osteoporosis medication
  • Supplements, especially iron and potassium

Treatments and Cures

Lifestyle changes can cure or lessen the majority of cases.

  • Eat small, more frequent meals
  • Avoid problem foods
  • Avoid alcohol
  • Avoid eating before bed
  • Elevate your upper body while sleeping
  • Quit smoking
  • Lose weight
  • Change exercise habits (avoid pressure on abs, bending over, jostling exercises, and exercising on a full stomach)

If you are unsure what causes your suffering, keep a diary tracking your food and behavior to find patterns. Usually, doctors prescribe prescription medicine to treat acid reflux.

Some chronic suffers may have more serious conditions such as GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), ulcers, scarring, stricture, or Barrett’s Esophagus. You should see a doctor if you suffer more than two times a week, over-the-counter medicines don’t help, you have difficulty swallowing, nausea, vomiting, black stools, or weight loss.

Dr. Cofrancesco and Dr. Quijano at GI North can help diagnosis and treat your heartburn and other stomach problems. As certified gastroenterologists, they are uniquely qualified to provide you with quality, personalized care. Dr. Quijano even speaks fluent Spanish to better assist all the patients at GI North. Conveniently located in Cumming, GA, GI North serves the areas of Roswell, Alpharetta, Canton, and Suwanee. Contact us today and stop suffering.

© 2016 GI North Gastroenterology Services. All rights reserved.

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