10 Things You Should Know About Heartburn

By , By Abigail L. Cuffey, of Woman's Day

Heartburn is a serious condition, and living with it takes a toll on you. But staying informed about what causes it, how to treat it and when it may be more than just indigestion can be helpful when it comes to managing discomfort.

1. Heartburn isn’t the only symptom. That uncomfortable burning sensation in your chest is the most common sign of acid reflux, but some people don’t experience it. Instead, they may have trouble swallowing or even cough up blood. Acid reflux happens when your sphincter muscle (which connects the esophagus to the stomach) relaxes at the wrong time and stays open too long (it normally only opens for a few seconds when you swallow), allowing stomach acid to flow back up into the esophagus, explains Lauren Gerson, MD, associate professor of medicine and gastroenterology at Stanford University.

2. Antacids may not be enough. For occasional heartburn, antacids like Maalox or Tums work well. But if you’re experiencing symptoms at least twice a week, or if it’s so bad that it’s interfering with your daily life (it’s keeping you up at night, for example), see your doctor. You might be one of the 10 percent of Americans who have chronic acid reflux, which is known as GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease). This condition needs to be treated by cutting off acid at the source, and drugs like Prilosec and Nexium can help by turning off the acid pumps in the stomach. Many of these meds are now available over the counter, but talk to your doc first to confirm your diagnosis. She may also suggest a higher, prescription-only dose.

3. Ignoring it is dangerous. Left untreated, chronic acid reflux can increase your risk of developing an esophageal infection, ulcers, scarring of the esophagus, and even a precancerous condition called Barrett’s esophagus, says Julia LeBlanc, MD, associate professor of medicine and gastroenterology at Indiana University.

7 more things you should know about heart burn!

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I agree with what PINK SOLDIER says-- I try to just avoid foods that trigger my reflux. I found that some medicines help, but I don't want to be reliant on those. I found a lot of help at RefluxMD and online forums. Report
Not very often and if I do its generally due to stress at work. Report
I suffer from Reflux, and have for a few years now. When I'm having a severe bout, I take nexium. I have noticed if I eat Activia Yogurt, I'm much better. Report
I was not having heart burn but was having problems swallowing and felt like something was in my throat. I was sent to an ENT. He scoped my throat and found inflamation and lots of irritation. He said I had "Silent reflux" and put me on perscription Prilosec daily.
I have heartburn and acid reflux. It was beginning to affect my singing voice, not good. So I'm on Nexium and it really helps. Report
I used to get heartburn when I ate pepperoni and/or sausage. So now, I just don't eat pepperoni and limit the sausage. I feel like this is something that can just be avoided. I didn't want to live popping tums everyday. Report
No, but my husband sometimes does. Report
I have had acid reflux problems and was prescribed a 14 day medicine, it worked well. Also learn what foods have alot of acid: tomatoes, citrus, chocolate and mint are some triggers. Report
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