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What is Heartburn?

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Heartburn. It’s an uncomfortable and sometimes painful feeling that—to the surprise of many—does not actually affect the heart.

So what causes heartburn?

Heartburn is an irritation of the esophagus -- the tube connecting your stomach to your throat. Normally, your esophagus knows the right time to open and close to allow food to enter your stomach or for you to belch. However, there are cases when the esophagus does not close tightly enough, allowing stomach acid to seep through.

When this happens, the stomach acid causes a burning sensation in your chest behind your breastbone… giving us heartburn. Additional symptoms of heartburn include difficulty swallowing, long-term cough, sore throat or hoarseness, chronic cough or stomach pain in the upper abdomen.

So why is it that our esophagus doesn’t always close as it should? There are a few factors, including overeating or even obesity or pregnancy, which can place added pressure on the stomach and lead to heartburn.

Many food and drinks can also increase acid production and trigger heartburn, including fatty or fried foods, alcohol or carbonated beverages, spicy foods, chocolate, tomato products and citrus products.

What can you do to prevent heartburn?

Improve your daily habits by following these simple guidelines to help prevent regular heartburn from slowing you down:

  • Eat Right. Overeating can increase your risk for heartburn. Cut back on gassy, fatty, spicy or fried foods and avoid carbonated beverages. If you suffer from regular heartburn and eat these foods, reducing your intake of these items on a regular basis can greatly reduce your symptoms.
  • Stop Smoking. Nicotine can weaken the muscle that controls the opening between the esophagus and stomach, leading to increased heartburn effects.
  • Less Stress is Best. Stress and anxiety can boost heartburn risk. Practicing yoga or meditation can help lower stress levels and reduce daily stress.
  • Choose Comfy. You’ll be less likely to get heartburn wearing comfier clothes, so avoid wearing skinny jeans or tight belts on a daily basis to give yourself some room for digestion.
  • Know When to Work Out. Wait at least two hours after a meal before exercising. If you work out any sooner, you may trigger heartburn. If you're overweight, losing weight will also help to decrease heartburn symptoms.

It is important to pay close attention to your symptoms, as heartburn symptoms at times can be confused with heart attack symptoms. Seek immediate medical attention if you experience severe chest pain, have difficulty breathing, or have jaw or arm pain, as these may be a sign of a heart attack.

For regular heartburn sufferers, following these preventative methods can help you beat the burn, feel great and life a healthier, happier life.


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