Heartburn, also known as acid indigestion, can be described as a feeling of warmth or burning in the chest, and may spread up to the throat. It can be both irritating and uncomfortable. Even though it is felt in the chest it actually has nothing to do with the heart. It is a condition that is caused by stomach acid. Frequent episodes of it can be a more serious condition known as GERD, or gastro esophageal reflux disease. Frequent episodes can lead to further medical complications such as developing ulcers in the esophagus.
When you eat food, and swallow it, the food travels down the esophagus and has to pass through the lower esophageal sphincter, which prevents food from coming back up the esophagus and into the mouth, and then the food enters the stomach. It is then digested by stomach acids, which are very strong and can be damaging to other parts of the body, but not the stomach due to its protective lining known as the mucous layer. When the lower esophageal sphincter does not close properly, the partially digested food and the stomach acid can rise back into the esophagus and this is when the pain and discomfort of heartburn is felt.
When the lower esophageal sphincter does not close completely, it can happen for many reasons. Certain foods we eat, including chocolate, foods high in fat, spicy foods, citrus fruits, and drinks such as coffee, tea and soda, especially those with caffeine, alcohol, and even smoking can be the cause. When the body is in the laying down position, it is easier for the acids to travel up and enter into the esophagus. Certain things or actions can put pressure on the stomach and send the acid travelling upwards, including lifting, coughing, tight fitting pants, excess body weight and pregnancy.
Prescription medications such as blood pressure pills, osteoporosis medications, aspirin and ibuprofen can all cause heartburn. Also certain medical conditions such as diabetes, hiatal hernia, Reynaud phenomenon and scleroderma can be the cause. There are many natural ways to control, relieve the pain and discomfort and prevent heartburn from happening.