When heartburn is just heartburn…
Just about everyone has occasional mild “heartburn” or acid indigestion. This may be caused by eating certain spicy foods, such as pepperoni pizza, very hot peppers, or chili. These foods can irritate the esophagus (the tube that carries food from your mouth to your stomach).
This sort of discomfort or “burning” feeling in the chest and throat may not last long. And antacids or acid reducers that you can buy without a prescription often bring quick relief. Over time, some people learn what foods cause problems for them and take acid reducers before eating those foods to help prevent symptoms.
But what if you follow all of the dosage recommendations of such medications (including the length of time you should continue to take them), and they still don’t relieve your symptoms? Or what if you start having “heartburn” more often, and your symptoms are worse than when you had acid indigestion only once in a while? Then the chances are very good that your heartburn is more than just heartburn!
Where the esophagus joins the stomach, there is a muscular ring called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). Normally, the LES acts like a door that opens to let food enter the stomach and then closes to keep stomach acids (which process the food in the stomach) from flowing backward into the esophagus.
When the LES muscle are weakened by such things as spicy foods, smoking, or pressure on the stomach, acid from the stomach may flow back or “reflux” into the esophagus. This can cause the esophagus to become irritated and inflamed (a condition called “esophagitis”) and produce the burning pain and discomfort of GERD.
If left untreated, GERD can cause ulcers to form in the esophagus, swallowing difficulties and, rarely, even more serious complications. So if you think you have GERD, consult your physician.
Frequent heartburn; Regurgitation, Food or sour liquid come back up info your mouth; Frequent belching or burping; Difficult or painful swallowing; Chest pain/discomfort; Symptoms at night or when sleeping; More discomfort after you eat, bend over, or lie down.
If you think you have any of these symptoms – consult your physician.