Heartburn is a common digestive issue that affects most people at some point in their lives. Triggered by eating overly spicy food or not chewing enough, heartburn is named after the burning sensation that occurs behind the breastbone. Also known as acid indigestion, heartburn is one of the symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) that can result in chronic heartburn.
Common causes. Heartburn can be caused by several environmental factors that cause stomach acid to flow back into the esophagus. Lying down after a meal, eating too much or not chewing enough can all result in heartburn. This type of heartburn is temporary, but chronic heartburn can be a sign of GERD. According to the Mayo Clinic, GERD occurs when stomach acid flows back into the esophagus, causing a burning sensation.
Antacids. Antacids in chewable, liquid or pill form can help give you fast relief for heartburn symptoms. This type of treatment makes stomach acid less acidic, which reduces inflammation in the esophagus and stomach. Chewable tablets come in a variety of flavors and can be taken at any time.
Acid blockers. Some medications block acid production rather than neutralizing it, giving the esophagus time to heal itself. Also known as proton pump inhibitors, some brands can be found over-the-counter.
Food allergies. Heartburn can also be a symptom of digestive allergies. Allergies to certain types of foods, like gluten or dairy, can be an underlying cause of heartburn symptoms. Patients who are lactose-intolerant or suffer from celiac disease should talk to their doctor about diets to help prevent heartburn symptoms.
Surgery. Surgery can be used in severe cases of GERD. Your doctor may do a procedure in which the top part of the stomach is wrapped around the bottom part of the esophagus. This prevents acid from flowing back into the throat, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
Alternative treatments. Certain lifestyle changes can help reduce instances of heartburn. Avoiding caffeine, spicy foods and alcohol can mitigate symptoms or eliminate heartburn altogether in some people. Also, make sure your clothes aren’t too tight and don’t lie down directly after a meal.