Heartburn (also known as pyrosis or acid indigestion) does not, as most people think, have anything to do with the heart although there are certain heart conditions or symptoms such as chest muscle pain which can closely mimic the symptoms of heartburn.
Rather, heartburn is a stomach condition, which is good news because unlike many serious heart conditions, heartburn is relatively easily treated.
Heartburn is caused by gastric acid being regurgitated up in to the esophagus. The gastric acid is what causes the painful burning sensation associated with heartburn, which is typically located slightly below the breast bone, although it will often spread up farther into the throat.
Even for those who do not experience heartburn very often, the condition may be brought about by overly spicy or fatty foods, tomatoes or citrus fruits, frequent coffee or alcohol consumption,
or even lack of sleep or stress may cause excess acid, resulting in the pain and discomfort of heartburn.
Heartburn prevention & treatment
Heartburn being such a common localized pain, there are many treatments available. The best way to deal with heartburn, however, is to prevent it before it ever becomes a problem.
Dietary modifications are especially important. One preventative technique is eating smaller, more frequent meals, which will reduce the amount of gastric acid produced. Another way to prevent
heartburn is to avoid common foods (see above) which cause the stomach to produce large amounts of gastric acid.
If prevention doesn't work, there a number of heartburn treatments available. The simplest is to take an antacid, which does not actually prevent gastric acid from coming in to contact with the inner lining of the esophagus, but rather neutralizes
the acid. Such over-the-counter remedies are a quick fix to relieve pain.
For those who suffer chronic heartburn, other remedies are available such as H2 blockers which reduce the amount of acid your stomach makes. While they dont relieve symptoms immediately,
H2 blockers relieve symptoms for a longer period of time than antacids.
While occasional acid indigestion is not usually dangerous, frequent bouts of heartburn have been shown to correlate with other much more serious conditions, such as GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) and esophageal cancer, and so experts usually
suggest a doctor's visit for those who suffer habitual or chronic heartburn.