Pain or burning in the abdomen’s mouth, also called heartburn, is a common symptom in the adult population. Gastroesophageal reflux is sometimes referred to interchangeably, although they are not entirely synonymous. In this space, we will tell you what it is and what are the causes of heartburn.
Both the burning sensation in the stomach area, as well as the manifestation itself, but rising behind the sternum (the chest bone that lies in front of the heart), can to some degree, be trivial. Still, some lifestyle changes are required to fix them.
What is heartburn?
The stomach is an organ that is part of the upper digestive system. It is located in the abdomen, in the central and upper areas of it. Above is the esophagus and below the small intestine.
The function of the stomach is to help in the breakdown of food. E l acid-producing, called gastric, facilitates protein digestion and the absorption of iron, calcium, and vitamin B12. Also, gastric acid kills many ingested microorganisms and limits bacterial growth, thereby preventing intestinal infections.
If the stomach acid does not continue to the intestine but returns to the esophagus, we are facing gastroesophageal reflux. We must clarify that a certain degree of this reflux is physiological. These episodes usually occur after meals, are short-lived, cause no symptoms, and rarely occur during sleep.
On the other hand, when reflux causes bothersome symptoms or complications, it is called non-physiological gastroesophageal reflux. This can appear as a cause of heartburn or heartburn, a burning or burning sensation in the stomach area, or behind the breastbone.
How and why does heartburn occur?
When we eat, food passes from the mouth to the esophagus and then from the stomach. Between the two, a muscular ring is called the lower esophageal sphincter, which prevents the stomach contents from returning to the mouth.
When, for some reason, beyond what we call physiological reflux, the stomach’s acidic content rises upward, it is possible to experience heartburn. The exact reasons for the causes of heartburn are still under study.
Various possible theories were postulated, such as alterations in motility (movements of the digestive tract), acid production changes, stress, diet, psychological and hereditary factors.
We must clarify that we are not talking about defined diagnoses, such as ulcers or pathological gastroesophageal reflux, irritable bowel, and gallstones. Although in all these situations, you can also experience heartburn.
Risk factors and causes of heartburn
As mentioned, heartburn causes persist in the study but are recognized factors that they are called risk. These should be avoided whenever possible to reduce the onset of the symptom.
The diet is one of those determinants. It influences the presence of heartburn in some people, especially associated with the consumption of certain products, such as spicy or condiments, citrus fruits, tomato derivatives (ketchup), fried or high-fat foods, mint, chocolate, sodas, and alcohol.
Being overweight can also increase your risk of heartburn. During pregnancy, it is common to observe it for a similar reason, since the enlarged uterus pushes up the stomach and favors reflux due to anatomical changes.
When to go to the doctor
There are times when additional studies are needed if specific causes of heartburn are suspected. In such situations, it is suggested to consult a specialist to rule out other important causes.
An alarm symptom would be the new appearance of heartburn in patients older than 60 years who did not previously suffer from it. If this is accompanied by gastrointestinal bleeding (bleeding in vomit or stool), all the more so.
Lack of appetite is another warning sign, as well as unexplained weight loss or difficulty swallowing. Sometimes, chest pain is not related to cardiac events, and that comes from the digestive system.
A particular situation is the history of gastrointestinal cancer in a first-degree relative. If the parents, uncles, or grandparents have had oncological pathology, it is advisable to increase attention and speed up the consultation if symptoms suggestive of a cause of heartburn appear.
What can you do if you suffer from a cause of heartburn?
In those cases in which the episodes of heartburn or in the sternum region are very mild and sporadic, there are recommendations that it will be good to follow and that can improve the symptoms:
- Lose weight: if you are overweight.
- Raising the bed’s head: This can be done by placing wooden or rubber blocks under 2 legs or a foam wedge under the mattress. Do not use many pillows, as they can cause neck pain.
- Avoid certain foods that make symptoms worse: These include coffee, chocolate, alcohol, mint, spices, hot spices, fatty foods, and fried foods.
- Quitting smoking: The snuff is a cause for heartburn.
- Advance late meals: Going to bed with a full stomach can make reflux worse. We should try to plan meals for at least 2 to 3 hours before going to bed.
It is essential not to use over-the-counter antacids. It will always be preferable to consult the doctor about it. In case the symptoms become more intense, appear at night, or persist for a long time, it is suggested to accelerate the professional evaluation.