Heartburn is the sensation of warmth, burning, pain or heat in the upper abdomen, just below the breastbone. The pain may spread to the throat, and there may be sour taste in mouth. Heartburn is also called as sour stomach, acid regurgitation, pyrosis or indigestion and it has nothing to do with the heart.
Heartburn may cause some problems such as burping, bloating, nausea or difficulty in swallowing. It may also cause chronic cough, wheezing, choking episodes, asthma or sleeping problems in some people.
Esophagus is the tube that leads from throat to stomach. Heartburn occurs when stomach juices and food go back up in the esophagus, and this process is known as gastroesophageal reflux.
Incomplete closing of lower esophageal sphincter (LES) between stomach and esophagus can be the cause of severe heartburn. Certain foods and drinks such as peppermint, chocolate, sugars, fatty foods, fried foods, alcohol, coffee and carbonated drinks can also be the causes of severe heartburn. If you are already suffering from heartburn, backflow of stomach acids can make esophagus more sensitive to other foods as well, such as tomatoes, citrus fruits, garlic, onions and spicy food.
Frequent bending over, tight clothes, obesity, pregnancy, vigorous exercise and straining bowel movements can put the pressure on stomach and become the cause of severe heartburn. There are certain prescription and non-prescription medicines such as prednisone, aspirin, iron, ibuprofen, antihistamines, potassium and sleeping pills that can be the causes of severe heartburn. Hiatal hernia, which occurs when a part of stomach pushes upward through diaphragm, or stress, which increases the amount of acid in the stomach, may also be the cause of severe heartburn.
Eating too fast, consuming large portions of food at a time, oily or spicy food and eating just before going to bed can also be the causes of severe heartburn.
Most of the babies spit up, but once esophagus becomes more coordinated, the spitting up reduces. Children who vomit more often during first two years of their life are at higher risk of having reflux and heartburn problems later in life.
Knowing the cause of severe heartburn and cause of chronic heartburn can help with quick diagnosis and timely treatment. Avoid foods that cause this problem, and additionally, eat healthy food and exercise regularly. Avoid wearing tight clothes, and maintain good body posture. Try to eat 2-3 hours before bedtime, and take a walk after dinner. Heartburn can be cured with some simple home remedies or over the counter medication, but in case it persists, it is advisable to seek medical help.