Heartburn and acid reflux, probably the most common gastro-intestinal disorders of our age, are known to affect patients of all ages and races, regardless of general health condition. Heartburn can appear as a standalone affliction, manifested as a burning sensation in the lower chest, behind the sternum, but it may also occur as a symptom of gastro-esophageal reflux disease. In this last case, the patient will experience heartburn more often, at least a few times per week.
Understanding what causes heartburn and acid reflux is essential for the prevention and treatment of these afflictions. Normally, the gastric contents are prevented from refluxing back into the esophagus by the lower esophageal sphincter - a group of muscles which only relax to let food and liquids to pass into the stomach, tightening back afterwards. Acid reflux and heartburn in general, can occur due to a number of factors, including a dysfunctional lower esophageal sphincter. Also, both eating habits and food can cause the gastric contents to enter the esophagus, where they attack the soft tissue causing the burning sensation of heartburn.
Many people suffering from acid reflux experience night time episodes. These are more severe than regular symptoms, mostly due to the patient being stationary in a lying down position for a long time.
As part of the prevention and treatment of heartburn and acid reflux, lifestyle changes and dietary restraints are probably the most important tools at your disposal. Among the changes in eating habits you may want to consider rearranging your daily meals so that you never eat less than one hour before going to sleep or avoiding large meals, opting instead for many smaller meals throughout the day. Maintaining your weight, quitting smoking and drinking and avoiding tight fitting clothes are also things you may wish to consider if you have been diagnosed with GERD.
As for food, patients suffering from heartburn and acid reflux should avoid spicy, fatty or fried foods, chocolate, citrus fruits and tomatoes, as well as any other foods which you find that trigger the symptoms of your affection. You may want to compile a list of these foods, and make sure you avoid them in the future.
Heartburn and acid reflux can cause a number of complications if left untreated, ranging from mild to severe. In order to avoid any such complications and to cure your affection, you will want to closely follow the treatment plan laid out for you by your health care professional.