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Curing Heartburn: What Causes Heartburn

Updated on August 26, 2011

Curing Heartburn: Understand the Problem

To cure heartburn or any other problem successfully you need to do so in a logical and methodical way and in my view the best place to start your approach is by understanding the problem.

If we know our bodies and we understand the condition we want to cure we stand a much better chance of success.

Curing Heartburn: What is Heartburn

Heartburn has nothing to do with your heart. The word heartburn comes from the burning pain in the esophagus that arises when stomach acid flows back up into the esophagus. The medical term for heartburn is reflux esophagitis.

Having said that heartburn has nothing to do with your heart the symptoms of heartburn and heart disease can be very similiar so in the words of one of my good friends who suffered with bad heartburn a few weeks before his heart attack "... if you have heartburn on a regular basis get your heart checked out, trust me, I have the T-Shirt !"

In America heartburn is a very common problem with over twenty-five million adults suffering with it on a daily basis and well over sixty million adults experiencing symptoms on a monthly basis.

When you eat food it passes down your esophagus into your stomach through a muscular value called a sphincter. The sphincter is called the lower esophageal sphincter or LES. The LES should open to let the food in and then should close again. Heartburn occurs when partially digested food covered in highly acidic stomach acids passes back through this sphincter and it irritates the lining of the esophagus causing the painful sensation we know as heartburn.

To stop heartburn you have to find out what is causing your LES either to open inappropriately or not close fully.

Curing Heartburn: What Causes Heartburn

Heartburn could be due to a weak sphincter where leakage occurs because the LES is unable to cope with the pressure of a stomach full of food but most often heartburn is triggered by eating certain types of foods, drinking alcohol or smoking cigarettes.

The problem can also be caused by too much pressure on the abdomen which in turn then puts pressure on the LES. This pressure can be caused by pregnancy or by obesity but it can also be as a result of wearing tight fitting clothes.

Heartburn can also be caused by abnormal muscle or nerve function in the stomach that means that the food spends more time than it should in the stomach increasing the chance of acid leaking back up into the esophagus.

Other medical conditions that may cause heartburn include asthma, diabetes and hiatal hernias.

Curing Heartburn: Symptoms of Heartburn

The most common symptoms are:

  • a burning pain behind the breastbone (close to the heart) that may travel up to the neck
  • an acidic taste in the back of the throat or mouth
  • the regurgitation of food
  • burping

These symptoms will often start after a meal and will intensify if you bend over or lay flat..

Less frequently suffered symptoms include problems swallowing food, coughing or wheezing chest pains, nausea and vomiting

Symptoms suffered by individuals vary in both nature and severity. Some may have several symptoms whilst others only have one or two.


Curing Heartburn: Complications from Heartburn

To suffer with the occasional bout of heartburn is nothing unusual but if you have chronic heartburn it could mean that you have Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease which is also known as GERD.

The complications of untreated GERD can be very serious as the continual exposure of the esophagus to acid can damage the esophagus leading to esophagitis, esophageal ulcers and bleeding from the esophagus.

The damage may also cause scar tissue to form and result in the creation of strictures that narrows the esophagus and can even prevent food from reaching the stomach.

It is even thought that GERD may cause cancer of the esophagus. There was an important study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in March 1999. This study looked at the links between adenocarcinoma of the esophagus, Barrett's esophagus, and heartburn (GERD) in the whole of the Swedish population and they found a strong association between heartburn and cancer. They found an increased risk of cancer even among individuals with mild heartburn but the risk increased where the individual suffered heartburn frequently or had suffered for many years.

The authors calculated that individuals who had suffered frequent heartburn for more than 20 years were 44 times more likely to develop cancer than individuals without heartburn. They also estimated that GERD might be responsible for half of all adenocarcinomas and 87% of the adenocarcinomas among patients with heartburn.


All content within this article is provided for your general information only, and it should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or health care professional who should always be consulted if you are in any way concerned about your health.

Curing Heartburn: Treatment Options

The good news is that there are lots of treatments available to treat heartburn.

These include

  • lifestyle changes
  • avoiding certain foods
  • over the counter (OTC) medicines
  • prescription medicines
  • medical procedures


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    • profile image

      reflux 6 years ago from USA

      Hi Amber Allen,

      Good article on heartburn, Its really helpful, thanks for sharing.

    • Amber Allen profile image

      Amber Allen 6 years ago

      Thanks for reading and commenting on my hub docbruin. I hope that you are able to find some relief from your heartburn.


    • docbruin profile image

      docbruin 6 years ago from USA

      Great hub Amber! I am a chronic heartburn sufferer and have been for years. I'll be reading your other heartburn hub next! Hopefully I can find a way to get some lasting relief. Thanks for the information!

    • Amber Allen profile image

      Amber Allen 6 years ago

      Thanks Pamela. Your rating up and knid comments are much appreciated.


    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 6 years ago from United States

      Great information on heartburn. I have to take medication for heartburn also due to some of the medication I take which is hard on the GI track. Rated up and awesome.

    • profile image

      TattoGuy 6 years ago

      I read this and the heart attack feeling is similar to the feeling of heartburn, I have put in a link to this interesting article, I stand corrected ; )

      Art x

    • Amber Allen profile image

      Amber Allen 6 years ago

      Hi Art

      The information used in my hub came from very reputable sources and I've just rechecked and have provided an extract below

      "Is heartburn associated with heart attacks?

      No. But sometimes pain in the chest may be mistaken for heartburn when it's really a sign of heart disease."

      I hadn't included this information in my hub so I'm going to edit the hub and include this information and your own circumstances it help others.

      Thanks for your constructive comments.


    • profile image

      TattoGuy 6 years ago

      heartburn has nothing to do with your heart, you are wrong moi friend as heartburn can be an oncoming sign of a heart attack, I know because I suffered bad heartburn a few weeks before my heart attack, heartburn can be a sympton of a heart attack.

      Good hub though but if you have heartburn on a regular basis get your heart checked out, trust me, I have the T-Shirt !


    • Amber Allen profile image

      Amber Allen 6 years ago

      Hi KKG

      Thanks. I'm thinking about putting together a hub on how to help prevent heartburn.


    • KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

      Susan Haze 6 years ago from Sunny Florida

      Amber, great information. I am one of those who suffer from this and have to take medication. I still however have to follow the anit-heartburn tips.

    • Amber Allen profile image

      Amber Allen 6 years ago

      Hi acaetnna

      Thanks for popping by. I'm so pleased that you found this hub useful.


    • acaetnna profile image

      acaetnna 6 years ago from Guildford

      I found this very informative - thank you. Rated up.

    • Amber Allen profile image

      Amber Allen 6 years ago

      Hi anginwu

      Thanks for reading and rating my hub.


    • anglnwu profile image

      anglnwu 6 years ago

      Good information presented in a comprehensive manner. Rated useful.