is a burning sensation in your chest, just behind your
breastbone. Technically called gastroesophageal reflux disease
(GERD), heartburn occurs when stomach contents back up into
your esophagus. Sour taste and the sensation of food coming
back into your mouth may accompany the sensation.
usually happens after you’ve eaten a meal, and it may occur
at night. The pain usually worsens when you’re lying down or
food back up into your esophagus? Normally, a strong band of
muscle (lower esophageal sphincter) closes off the bottom of
the esophagus and opens to allow food and liquid to flow down
into your stomach. Then it closes again. If the muscle relaxes
abnormally or becomes weakened, stomach contents can wash back
up (reflux), irritating the esophagus.
heartburn is common and no cause for alarm. Most people manage
the discomfort on their own. More frequent heartburn that
interferes with your daily routine may be a symptom of
something more serious that requires assistance from your
or minimize the effects of heartburn, you should:
Maintain a healthy weight. Excess pounds put pressure on your
abdomen, pushing up your stomach and causing acid to back up
into your esophagus. If your weight is healthy, maintain it.
If you are overweight or obese, work to lose weight slowly —
no more than 1 or 2 pounds (0.5 to 1 kilogram) a week. Ask
your doctor for help in devising a weight-loss strategy that
will work for you.
Avoid tight-fitting clothing. Clothes that fit tightly around
your waist put pressure on your abdomen and the lower
Avoid foods and drinks that trigger heartburn. Everyone has
specific triggers. Common triggers, such as fatty or fried
foods, tomato sauce, alcohol, chocolate, mint, garlic, onion
and caffeine, can make heartburn worse. Avoid foods you know
will trigger your heartburn.
smaller meals. Avoid overeating by eating smaller meals.
lie down after a meal. Wait at least three hours after eating
before lying down or going to bed.
Elevate the head of your bed. If you regularly experience
heartburn at night or while trying to sleep, put gravity to
work for you. Place wood or cement blocks under the feet of
your bed so that the head end is raised by 6 to 9 inches. If
it’s not possible to elevate your bed, you can insert a
wedge between your mattress and box spring to elevate your
body from the waist up. Wedges are available at drugstores and
medical supply stores. Raising your head with additional
pillows is not effective.
over-the-counter antacids occasionally. These products can
neutralize stomach acid temporarily and relieve mild
heartburn. However, prolonged or excessive use of antacids
containing magnesium can cause diarrhea. Calcium- or
aluminum-based products can lead to constipation.
smoke. Smoking decreases the lower esophageal sphincter’s
ability to function properly.
WHEN TO SEE A DOCTOR
immediate help if you experience severe chest pain or
pressure, especially when combined with other signs and
symptoms such as pain in the arm or jaw, or difficulty
breathing. Chest pain may be a symptom of a heart attack. Make
an appointment with your doctor if:
Heartburn occurs more than twice a week.
Symptoms persist despite use of over-the-counter medications.
have difficulty swallowing.
have persistent nausea or vomiting.
have weight loss because of poor appetite or difficulty