Heartburn happens when your stomach acid flows back into your esophagus, or food pipe. Many foods can cause heartburn by relaxing the lower esophageal sphincter, a ring-like muscle that acts as a barrier between the esophagus and stomach.
The usual symptom of heartburn is a burning sensation in the chest that usually occurs after eating and may occur at night.
It can also be accompanied by:
- Bitter or acidic taste in your mouth
- regurgitation of food
- a feeling of food being stuck in the throat
What causes heartburn?
1. Certain food and drinks
Many foods can cause heartburn by relaxing the lower esophageal sphincter, a ring-like muscle that acts as a barrier between the esophagus and stomach. They include coffee, alcohol, chocolate, and fatty or spicy foods.
2. Being overweight
This is attributed to excess belly fat causing pressure on the stomach. The increase in abdominal pressure makes stomach acid leakage or backflow more likely.
Tight clothing can also aggravate symptoms of heartburn.
During pregnancy, the hormone progesterone causes the valve between the stomach and the esophagus to relax, which can increase the frequency of heartburn. This allows stomach acid to pass into the esophagus and irritate the lining.
It is more common as the pregnancy advances because the growing uterus puts pressure on the intestines and the stomach. The pressure on the stomach may also push contents back up into the esophagus.
Common medications taken for other problems, including over-the-counter and prescription drugs, can increase the likelihood of heartburn. This includes medicines used to treat asthma, high blood pressure, heart problems, arthritis or other inflammation, osteoporosis (low bone density), anxiety, insomnia, depression, pain, Parkinson’s disease, muscle spasm, or cancer.
Also, drugs used for hormone therapy can be a heartburn trigger.
5. Hiatus hernia
When muscle tissue surrounding the esophageal sphincter weakens, it can cause the upper part of your stomach to bulge up through the diaphragm into your chest cavity. This is called hiatal hernia.
This hernia can lead to the development of both acid reflux and a chronic form of acid reflux called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
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