What Can Cause Heartburn?

Find out why you might be dealing with heartburn.

Heartburn is a common issue. While it’s usually nothing to worry about, if you are dealing with this problem regularly, it might be time to see a gastroenterologist to find out what’s going on. After all, recurring heartburn could be a sign of a more severe condition known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), and it’s vital that you address the issue properly.

What Is Heartburn?

So, you know that you feel a miserable burning sensation in your throat and chest, but you aren’t quite sure what’s going on there. Heartburn, also called indigestion, occurs when the acids in your stomach travel backward into the esophagus. Heartburn is often an excellent indicator that you are dealing with GERD. If left untreated, GERD can increase the risk of esophageal cancer.

What Can Cause Heartburn?

It’s essential to recognize what may trigger your heartburn. Women who are pregnant as well as obese or overweight individuals are more at risk for developing heartburn. What you eat could also affect whether you develop heartburn. It’s important to recognize common trigger foods, including,

  • Citrus
  • Alcohol
  • Coffee, tea, and other caffeinated products
  • Tomato-based products (this includes ketchup)
  • Onions
  • Chocolate
  • Fried or fatty foods (think onion rings and French fries)

Apart from diet, other things can trigger your heartburn, including,

  • Overeating
  • Smoking
  • Lying down immediately after eating
  • Taking certain medications such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or blood pressure medications
  • Intense exercise

Should I Treat My Heartburn?

If you are dealing with heartburn regularly, you must address this issue to prevent serious complications such as esophageal damage. If over-the-counter heartburn medications aren’t helping keep your symptoms under control, or if you are dealing with heartburn two or more times a week, then it’s the perfect time to visit a gastroenterologist for care. Remember: Over-the-counter antacids are not for long-term use. If you have to take antacids frequently, you need to see a GI doctor.

How Will a Gastroenterologist Treat My Heartburn?

One of the simplest ways to ease heartburn is through lifestyle changes. These include,

  • Not eating 2-3 hours before bedtime
  • Eat smaller meals more frequently and avoid larger meals
  • Avoid belts or shirts that are too tight around the middle
  • Limit acidic, spicy, fried, and fatty foods
  • Eat slowly and chew food fully to aid in better digestion
  • Sleep with your head raised in bed
  • Get plenty of water
  • Avoid eating 2 hours before exercise if you find that exercise triggers your heartburn
  • Avoid alcohol and caffeine
  • Quit or avoid smoking
  • Lose excess weight

Along with lifestyle changes, your gastroenterologist may prescribe medication to ease symptoms. These medications may include,

  • Antacids
  • H2 blockers
  • Proton pump inhibitors

These medications are designed to reduce or temporarily block stomach acid to allow the gut time to heal.

Suppose heartburn has gotten too much for you to address on your own. In that case, it’s a good idea to turn to a gastroenterologist, as they specialize in treating heartburn and other digestive disorders.

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