Many a times people wonder, what causes heartburn, why is it so common and is it an indication of something serious. This article addresses these questions and many more related to this commonly occurring symptom.
Heartburn or pyrosis is an uneasy sensation – a warm, burning feeling in the chest, typically just behind the breastbone that usually comes in spurts. The pain generally starts in the chest and spreads to other areas like neck, throat and jaw. There is a chance the pain will get worse as the patient bends over or lies down, and is more common just after eating. The term heartburn is a common lay term that does not have much to do with the heart. Many a time heartburn is linked to gastric reflux. Heartburn can be an indication of ischemic heart disease too.
You should not worry if you suffer from heartburn intermittently; nine times out of ten it is nothing to get anxious about. With a few lifestyle changes, and may be an OTC medication the distress can be overcome without having to ask for medical help.
Foods that may cause heartburn
If you are wondering what cause heartburn, then you need to know the various different foods that may cause heartburn. Some foods or ingredients affect the working of lower esophageal sphincter, which can be one among the common causes of heartburn. Caffeinated drinks may ease out the LES so it would not function as it should. Chocolate ingredients include theobromine; also present in cocoa, coffee plants and tea, this too can ease out the LES. Fried or fatty foods remain in the stomach longer as they are not easily digestible, again impacting the LES. Tomatoes or citrus fruits include an acid which can impact the lower esophageal sphincter. If people overeat, then they are straining not just their stomach but also laying pressure on the LES which cannot shut itself properly when under undue pressure. Out of this list of food stuff, some would be peculiar to the individual suffering from it. If eating a particular food leads to heartburn, it should be cut out of the diet permanently.
Causes of heartburn – An overview
The esophagus is a tube that links the stomach to the mouth. It pushes the food with the help of muscles toward the stomach in smooth waves. When in the stomach, the food is hampered from refluxing, by a characteristic area of round muscle positioned at the junction of the stomach and the esophagus, known as the lower esophageal sphincter. A pressure difference adjacent to the diaphragm, the flat muscle that divides the chest and the abdomen, also helps in keeping the contents of the stomach in the stomach. The enzymes, acids and foods are mixed with the stomach to start digesting. There are unique protective cells lining the stomach to avert the acid from triggering the inflammation. The esophagus does not have the same safeguard; if stomach contents reflux back into the esophagus, they can trigger inflammation of the lining. In short, the gastric acids get into the esophagus inducing heartburn. The lower esophageal sphincter relaxes when you swallow, allowing foods and drinks to reach to the stomach. After that the sphincter contracts again. The lower esophageal sphincter must close properly; otherwise the gastric acids may seep back into the esophagus, inducing heartburn.