Heartburn usually manifests as a burning sensation in the throat and a sour taste in the mouth. The burning pain in the chest is caused by the reflux of gastric acid (gastroesophageal reflux) into the esophagus. The symptom heartburn (pyrosis) can be safe, but it does not have to be. To clarify the cause, you should consult your doctor.
Heartburn is a folk disease, much like a headache. In Germany, every second person suffers from heartburn. Some only from time to time, others often. Pregnant and elderly people are often affected. Many "Sodbrand-afflicted" also know acid reflux and pressure in the chest area. We'll tell you what helps against heartburn.
Heartburn: valve in acid
To understand how heartburn develops, it's worth taking a look at how digestion works. Every day, our body produces about two to three liters of gastric juice, whose job it is to process the chyme and eliminate harmful microorgasms. Therefore, the gastric juice with a pH of 0.8 to 1.5 is also very acidic.
The esophagus is a 1 cm (1 cm) diameter muscle tube about 25 cm in length that is covered with mucous membrane. He connects the pharynx with the stomach. At the stomach entrance there is a sphincter (esophageal sphincter). This is like a valve that relaxes during swallowing and opens to the stomach. The contents of the esophagus can flow into the stomach.
Normally this way is a one-way street. The aggressive and very acidic gastric juice is no danger to the stomach thanks to its resistant mucous membrane. The esophagus, however, is very sensitive. If the valve leaks, gastric acid may reflux and damage the esophagus.
Causes of heartburn
Heartburn can have different causes. These include stress as well as certain dietary habits, such as overeating or late eating. Among other things, the following reasons can cause a disruption of the sphincter and thus cause heartburn:
- Mentally stressful situations such as stress stimulate gastric acid production and trigger heartburn.
- Certain foods affect the pressure of the sphincter.
- Some medications (including some analgesics) may be causally involved. Ask your doctor or pharmacist.
- It is possible that a diaphragmatic hernia has occurred. A part of the stomach shifts through the diaphragm opening into the chest cavity.
- In pregnant women, the hormone progesterone is responsible for the relaxation of the sphincter, while the greatly enlarged uterus presses against the stomach and, as a result, its contents push into the esophagus.
- In persons with overweight, it also happens that escapes more stomach contents into the esophagus.
Heartburn may be a warning sign of organic disease (gastric ulcer, gastritis, etc.). This should be clarified by an examination with your doctor.
Burns of the esophageal mucosa
Occasional acid regurgitation is not a cause for concern. However, if the esophageal mucosa is regularly exposed to the corrosive gastric juice several times a week, mucosal irritation and damage (reflux esophagitis) may occur. Under certain circumstances, the mucous membrane is completely destroyed. The upper respiratory tract, teeth and gums can also be affected by the refluxing acid.
Left untreated, heartburn can lead to a disease such as esophagitis. In the worst case, even an ulcer or cancer forms.
16 tips and home remedies for heartburn
- Eat several small meals a day (5 to 6). Large meals are very voluminous and lead to an overly full stomach content. The danger of gastric acid being pushed into the esophagus is increased.
- Especially in the evening you should refrain from rich meals and do not eat too late.
- Do not lie down directly after eating.
- It is helpful to sleep with a slightly raised upper body.
- Reduce your weight if you put too many pounds on the scale.
- Avoid stress because it is a common cause of heartburn. Relaxation exercises, sports, meditation and rest can help reduce stress and thus heartburn.
- Do not wear tight clothing and loosen your belt.
- Bent or stooped posture promotes reflux.
- Avoid alcohol and tobacco.
- Avoid strong acidic drinks such as grapefruit or lemon juice.
- Proven home remedies are teas with chamomile, fennel or caraway.
- Chewing gum is said to reduce reflux; Apparently, the increased production of saliva while chewing gum protects the mucous membrane of the esophagus.
- Studies have shown that sweets, such as chocolate, can be the trigger in people who suffer from heartburn. In these cases, the theobromine contained in chocolate is responsible.
- The influence of coffee on heartburn is not fully understood. Maybe increased coffee consumption the complaints.
- Many people describe the occurrence of heartburn after spicy, spicy food. However, the nature of the active ingredients in the herbal spices differs considerably, therefore no uniform assessment is possible. Studies have shown that the active ingredient capsaicin, which is responsible for the sharpness in chili peppers, increases the sensitivity of the esophagus to the gastric juice and thus intensifies the burning sensation.
- Again and again you read recommendations to drink milk in heartburn. This results from the assumption that the protein in the milk buffers the stomach acid. Previously, patients with this condition were fed only milk. Whether that helped, is questionable. For one thing, such a one-sided diet is recommended to anyone and on the other hand, scientists have proven that milk even stimulates the production of acid in the stomach.
Treat heartburn with medication
Tablets can also be used to treat heartburn. In particular, antacids that neutralize gastric juice are used to treat heartburn, as well as proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), which inhibit the formation of an enzyme needed for acid secretion.