Heartburn (GERD/Acid Reflux)

What is heartburn?

Heartburn is a burning feeling in the lower chest, along with a sour or bitter taste in the throat and mouth. Heartburn usually occurs after eating a big meal or while lying down. The feeling can last for a few minutes or a few hours.

How bad is my heartburn?

Mild: Mild symptoms; intervention not indicated. Most of the time, mild heartburn can be safely managed at home by following the tips given in the section below.
Moderate: Moderate symptoms; medical intervention indicated. You have chest pain especially after eating. It can sometimes be safely managed at home but may require the attention of the medical team.
Severe: Severe symptoms; operative intervention indicated. Fluid at the back of your throat that tastes hot, sour, acidic, or salty, long-term coughsore throat, or hoarseness. It may be an emergency and require additional medical interventions or hospitalization in some cases.

How to manage mild heartburn?

You might be able to avoid mild and moderate heartburn by making some lifestyle changes.

  • Place 6- to 9-inch blocks under the legs at the head of your bed to raise it.
  • Try to eat at least 2 to 3 hours before lying down. If you take naps, try sleeping in a chair.
  • Quit smoking if you smoke.
  • Lose weight if you’re overweight.
  • Don’t overeat.
  • Eat high-protein, low-fat meals.
  • Avoid tight clothes and tight belts.
  • Avoid foods and beverages that give you heartburn.
How to manage moderate and severe heartburn?

Exercise your judgment and seek 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
  • When you have difficulty swallowing
  • You have persistent nausea or vomiting
  • You have weight loss because of poor appetite or difficulty eating
What are the causes?

When you eat, food passes from your mouth down a tube called the esophagus. The esophagus is about 10 inches long in most people. To enter the stomach, the food must pass through an opening between the esophagus and stomach. This opening acts like a gate to allow food to pass into the stomach. Usually, this opening closes as soon as food passes through. But if it doesn’t close all the way, acid from your stomach can get through the opening and into your esophagus. This is called reflux. Stomach acid can irritate the esophagus and cause heartburn.

Other causes are

  • Hiatal hernia
  • Pregnancy
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Spicy food
  • Certain medicines (anti-inflammatory drugs and blood thinners)
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)


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