Heartburn Causes

Acid Reflux Solution Kit

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You know it when it strikes:  sharp, almost debilitating pain in the chest area, usually coupled with a sour aftertaste or difficulty swallowing.  Heartburn is quite common among adults, and perhaps the reason why infants are colicky.  There are a number of factors that give rise to this condition, and they are remotely connected to cardiovascular disorders.

Heartburn, despite its suggestive name, is caused by a digestive malfunction.  The control valve located below the esophagus and above the stomach – a narrow passage known as lower-esophageal sphincter (LES) – relaxes, opening the gate for stomach-bound contents to go in the opposite direction.  Heartburn does not necessarily follow from this anti-gravity movement of food particles; rather, it is when gastric juices start breaking down food in the stomach.  When there is a bulk of food particles waiting to be digested, the combination of gastric acid and pressure from this undigested material forces its way through the LES and into the esophagus where the searing sensation is felt just behind the breastbone.  The situation is aggravated when the person is supine, as the gastric juice sloshes back and forth, much in the same way that water would seek its own level.  When this occurs in sleep, refluxate could block the windpipe and result to a coughing fit; other times, it could prove fatal.

The LES relaxes under certain circumstances, excluding congenital conditions where a person is born with a naturally lazy sphincter.  One of the triggers for LES to let go of its grip is alcohol consumption.  It has been found out that alcohol, itself a natural relaxant, inhibits the contraction of the smooth muscle that lines the LES.  When the LES lets go, undigested food particles can easily pass through.

Where a lazy valve is not to blame, acid production is the likely culprit.  Acid is produced naturally to break down food particles, but its production can be further stimulated by a concoction of various liquids – alcohol, caffeine, carbonated drinks, orange juice, and chocolate drinks.  These beverages are harmless in small doses and in cases where heartburn is infrequent, but potentially harmful in large doses and among persons who are prone to heartburn.

The combination of loose sphincter and over-production of acid could certainly result to this sudden pain sharp enough to be mistaken as heart problem.  However, it the pain goes away after taking antacids, then it is likely that the heart has nothing to do with it.

As mentioned, heartburn is a relatively fleeting condition.  It seldom reappears when proper precautions are observed.  Knowing its triggers and aggravating circumstances, it is wise to:

  • Avoid taking liquids or foods that relax the valve and/or stimulate acid production (that means alcohol, coffee, tea, pop soda);
  • Eat in small proportions.  We know that bulky meals tend to create pressure in the stomach, so meals that are easily digested and evacuated into the lower intestine make more sense;
  • Keep upright after every meal.  We also know that gastric juice seeks its own level when the opportunity presents itself.  Try not to make room for that opportunity to arise;
  • Wear loose-fitting clothes.  Clothing that restricts the abdominal area creates upward pressure, especially when food particles are only partly digested.  Digestion is nature’s way of moving food matter downward.  So when it is not yet ready to move food along its natural course, food has only one way to go – up;
  • Steer clear of fatty diets.  Fat triggers the production of bile, a liver-produced bitter fluid that breaks down fats into smaller components.  The fattier the diet, the busier the liver.  Busy liver equals more bile.  More bile, coupled with gastric acid, results to a more corrosive digestive juice strong enough to cause esophageal ulcer.

Changing habits is a giant leap to prevent heartburn.  It may sound innocuous, but when left untreated, ulcerous tissue could progress to cancer.  You don’t want a preventable condition progress into something serious like that.