Heartburn has nothing to do with your heart, but it can sure feel like it. That’s because your stomach acid has pushed upward into the bottom of your esophagus, located in your chest cavity not too far from your heart.
That burning sensation is more than uncomfortable; it eats away at your esophageal lining and puts you at risk for serious complications like Barrett’s esophagus and even cancer.
Dr. Nirav Naik at New Life Medical in Bakersfield, California, can help you avoid that by diagnosing and treating the underlying cause of your heartburn. You can do a lot to tamp down heartburn, too, by considering these five factors that contribute to heartburn flare-ups.
1. What you eat
It’s no secret that certain foods trigger heartburn — some are obvious, but some may surprise you. Here are some of the most common heartburn-inducing foods:
- High-fat foods
- Spicy dishes
- Citrus fruits
- Mint (even gum)
Although tobacco isn’t a food, you ingest it, whether you smoke it or chew it. These foods and substances can relax your lower esophageal sphincter (LES), the muscle at the bottom of your esophagus. A loose LES allows stomach acid to escape into the esophagus and give you heartburn.
If you frequently experience heartburn, keep a food diary to determine which foods trigger your symptoms.
2. How you eat
Overeating can cause heartburn because it puts pressure on your LES, making it more likely for stomach acid to flow back into the esophagus. Smaller meals are less likely to give you heartburn.
Eating too quickly can also contribute to heartburn because doing so can lead to an overproduction of stomach acid. Take the time to eat slowly and chew thoroughly to give your stomach enough time to properly digest food.
3. When you eat
Eating too close to bedtime can exacerbate heartburn. Lying down after eating makes it easier for stomach acid to escape into your esophagus. Try to finish eating at least three hours before going to bed to give your gut enough time to digest.
4. What you do after you eat
Because lying down after eating can trigger heartburn, make an effort to stay vertical for a while. Take advantage of gravity and let it keep your stomach acid where it belongs.
Try to stay upright for at least two hours after eating. Clearing the table and doing dishes is a good start, but follow up with a stroll around the block to keep your stomach juices down and your heartburn at bay. Avoid more vigorous exercise immediately after you eat, however.
5. What you wear
Even your wardrobe matters when it comes to heartburn. Tight clothing, especially around your waist, can squeeze your stomach and force acid into your esophagus. Opt for looser, more comfortable clothing, especially if you're prone to heartburn.
How we treat heartburn
Heartburn is typically a symptom of acid reflux or gastrointestinal reflux disease (GERD). Dr. Naik treats these with medications that reduce your stomach acid.
However, heartburn can also indicate a hiatal hernia, esophagitis, esophageal ulcers, or other problems with your esophagus. In these cases, Dr. Naik treats the condition using the latest technology and techniques.
For example, he may recommend heartburn surgery, such as the LINX® Reflux Management System, to control acid reflux and restore your esophageal function. This procedure uses a bracelet-like circle of magnetic beads that open and close when you swallow, mimicking a healthy LES.
If you’re managing these five factors that make heartburn worse yet you still suffer from frequent bouts of acid reflux, call New Life Medical to schedule an appointment and get to the bottom of your heartburn.