Heartburn is a burning feeling in the chest caused by stomach acid travelling up towards the throat (acid reflux). If it keeps happening, it’s called gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD).
It can affect 1 in 5 people at some point. It is most common in adults aged 40 and over and occurs more in men than in women however it can affect people of all ages, including children.
Acid reflux is most commonly caused by weakening of the lower sphincter muscles of the gullet.
Symptoms of GORD (acid reflux) include:
Heartburn – a burning pain or discomfort below the breastbone, usually worse after meals,or when bending down, or when lying down
An unpleasant taste in the mouth, caused by reflux of acid from the stomach
Pain and difficulty in swallowing (dysphagia)
Causes of heartburn and acid reflux
Lots of people get heartburn from time to time. There's often no obvious reason why.
Sometimes it's caused or made worse by:
- certain food and drink – such as coffee, alcohol, chocolate, and fatty or spicy foods
- being overweight
- stress and anxiety
- some medicines, such as anti-inflammatory painkillers (like ibuprofen)
- a hiatus hernia – when part of your stomach moves up into your chest
Most people respond well to treatment with medication and some people may require a long-term course of medication to control the symptoms of acid reflux.
Prescription medication such as:
Omeprazole Esomeprazol Losec Nexium
they reduce how much acid your stomach makes
In addition simple lifestyle changes can help stop or reduce heartburn.
- eat smaller, more frequent meals
- raise one end of your bed 10 to 20cm– make it so your chest and head are above the level of your waist, so stomach acid doesn't travel up towards your throat
- try to lose weight (if you need to)
- try to find ways to relax
- have food or drink that triggers your symptoms
- eat within 3 or 4 hours before bed
- wear clothes that are tight around your waist
- drink too much alcohol
- stop taking any prescribed medicine without speaking to a doctor first