Just in time for your Thanksgiving feast, here's a short primer on heartburn, the worst part of any holiday meal. While there are many different causes of heartburn, and some people suffer with it all year long, overeating is one cause that can trigger this uncomfortable burning sensation in anyone enjoying a traditional turkey dinner with all the trimmings.
Heartburn is the feeling people get in their chest, often described as indigestion. It can lead to nausea, a bitter or sour taste in the mouth and burping.
Acid reflux is the action that produces those sensations. Gastric acids are moving up the esophagus, or food pipe, that normally carries chewed food down into the stomach. The esophagus does not have the same protective mucous lining that the stomach is coated with, so the acids burn the lining of the esophagus when they come into contact with it.
A weakened lower esophageal sphincter (LES) is the cause of the problem. The LES is a ring of muscles at base of esophagus that are only supposed to open to allow food to enter the stomach. If they are weakened or compromised in any way, they may open and allow the contents of the stomach to pass up again.
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, or GERD, is the condition when this occurs regularly. The 30 million who suffer from GERD may not be able to tell you what it stands for, but they know it as the sound they make when they have it.
Factors contributing to GERD:
Obesity, pregnancy, smoking, hiatal hernia and certain medications for high blood pressure, anxiety, insomnia and asthma.
Foods that can trigger reflux symptoms:
Citrus, chocolate, drinks containing caffeine or alcohol, fatty and fried foods, garlic, onions, mint flavoring, spicy foods and tomato-based foods.
Recommendations to reduce discomfort:
Wear loose-fitting clothes, eat smaller meals, don't lie down after eating, don't smoke, avoid trigger foods and beverages.
Other treatments to get relief:
Calcium-based antacids neutralize acid for short term relief, proton pump inhibitor drugs decrease the amount of acid produced in your stomach, H2 blockers lower the amount of acid released in the stomach.