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Heartburn – The 5 Alarm Fire!

Tips for Dealing with Heartburn

cartoon illustration of a red pepper breathing fireWe have all seen the latest trend of catchy television commercials advertising various heartburn medications featuring larger than life pizza slices and BBQ ribs that attack people. These scenes are humorous but for anyone that suffers from heartburn it is anything but funny. Statistics show that heartburn is the most common gastrointestinal malady today with 10% of Americans experiencing symptoms every day and night. If you suspect that you are suffering from heartburn put out the fire by calling (404) 446-0600 to schedule an appointment with the experts at GI North.

What is Heartburn and How is it Caused?

There are several ways to treat and/or cope with heartburn but before we learn to cope we need to understand exactly what heartburn is. Heartburn, also referred to as indigestion, is a medical condition that causes a burning sensation in the chest due to stomach acids that escape up into the esophagus. The sensation may be mild or extremely painful, depending on the severity of the condition. When functioning properly, stomach acids are kept out of the esophagus by the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) muscle. When this muscle is weakened, it doesn’t close as it is supposed to, resulting in the reflux of acid into the esophagus. It can be quite painful and scary if you don’t know what it is – many people mistake heartburn for a heart attack! It’s normal for some people to suffer from heartburn occasionally therefore there is no need to be overly concerned; however, if you suffer from heartburn on a regular basis and the pain is causing a negative impact on your life you should see a doctor and start a treatment plan for long term relief.

Long Term Effects of Heartburn

The acids in our stomach used to digest food are so strong that when the delicate tissues in our esophagus and mouth are exposed they become irritated and ulcerated causing erosion that burns no matter what you eat or drink. If left untreated heartburn sufferers run the risk of developing a variety of more serious conditions. To determine severity, an upper endoscopy procedure is performed to visually examine the upper digestive system (esophagus, stomach and beginning of the small intestine), with a tiny camera on the end of a long, flexible tube. The endoscopy procedure will help to determine if any of the following conditions are present:

  • Esophagitis, Barrett’s Esophagus, and Esophageal Cancer
  • Narrowing of the Esophagus
  • Respiratory Problems
  • Voice and Throat Problems
  • Dental Problems Due to Reflux

Foods and Lifestyle Habits to Avoid

  • Coffee, tea, cocoa, cola drinks, and other caffeine-containing products
  • Peppermint and chocolate
  • Fried and fatty foods
  • Citrus fruits or tomato products
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol
  • Obesity
  • Aspirin, contraceptives or postmenopausal hormone preparations
  • Over eating
  • Lying down or bending over too soon after eating and late-night snacks

Heartburn Treatment

There are a variety of treatments available to relieve the symptoms of heartburn depending on diagnosis. Minor, occasional heartburn can be treated using over-the-counter medications such as Prilasec, Prevacid, and Zantac. Individuals with more severe symptoms may be prescribed Nexium, Protonix, or others. Once diet and medication is balanced and under control, symptoms will begin to lessen or subside. Make an appointment with one of the Gastroenterologists at GI North to end your pain today! Visit www.gi-north.com or call (404) 446-0600 for more information.

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