You've felt it. A mild uncomfortable sensation in your chest after a cup of your favorite coffee or spicy dish escalates until it feels like your chest is on fire.
It's a miserable medical concern called heartburn.
Also known as acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease, symptoms surface after stomach acid, essential for breaking down food and protecting the body from invading bacteria, travels into your esophagus. It can also leave you feeling nauseous or bloated with a metallic taste in your mouth.
Medicine is helpful, of course, but lifestyle changes can also address heartburn.
Chistopher Tookey, MD, Family Medicine, recommends you:
Eliminate your trigger.
It's likely coffee, carbonated beverages, citrus (such as oranges or lemonade), spicy food, alcohol, tomatoes, red sauces, apples, chocolate or vinegar-based salad dressings.
Time your meals.
Avoid going to bed or even sitting in a recliner for at least two to three hours after eating. Elevating your head can help reduce acid reflux at night if you have an irregular schedule. Eating smaller meals throughout the day can also help. Maintaining a healthy weight can reduce pressure on the stomach from excess abdominal tissue which can force stomach contents up the esophagus.
Consider other irritants.
Pain medicines like ibuprofen (Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve) can irritate the lining of the stomach. Nicotine does the same and causes the bottom of the esophagus to stay open allowing acid to creep into the esophagus.
If you believe your heartburn symptoms are related to the heart (worse with exercise or associated with shortness of breath and arm or jaw pain), see your doctor right away. Unexplained weight loss, feeling like food getting stuck, dark discoloration of stool or vomiting blood are also reasons to make an appointment.
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