Heartburn Symptoms, Causes & Treatments
Heartburn, sometimes called acid gastritis, is probably the most popular GERD symptom (gastroesophageal reflux disease).
It usually feels like a burning sensation starting behind the breastbone, through your chest, and reaching the throat, then the neck and jaw.
Some people say it feels just like food is crawling back up into the mouth, leaving a bitter or acidic taste. Heartburn symptoms are usually more intense in the afternoon and evening.
Heartburn Symptoms usually occurs after a big meal, which may be uncomfortable for the rest of the day. Other people describe heartburn as a dull ache behind the breastbone, a painful pressure behind or under the breastbone (towards the belly button).
Heartburn usually doesn’t cause pain, only mild discomfort. A feeling of a burning pain behind the breastbone or in the chest is an indication of heartburn. Heartburn is not the same as regurgitation.
Heartburn symptoms include a tight feeling in the chest, difficulty breathing, hoarseness or coughing, pain behind or under the breastbone (towards the belly button), burning pain in the chest, or sore throat. Heartburn usually does not cause pain, only mild discomfort.
However, some people who are prone to having this condition experience chest pain and difficulty swallowing. Heartburn treatments will vary depending on your situation.
Your doctor may prescribe medication to treat your heartburn.
There are antacids that your doctor can recommend. Some people find that a unique pillow called a lying-on-the-side or stomach pillow helps them sleep at night with less discomfort from their heartburn. Your MD may also recommend an over-the-counter antacid called Rolaids or Tums.
If you eat a lot or have a lot of acid in your mouth, eating spicy or high-fat foods can irritate your esophagus and cause heartburn. So, if you often experience heartburn while eating foods that you enjoy, it’s best to avoid them.
Try to curb your intake of red meats, pepperoni, canned beans, tomato sauce, cream cheese, butter, chocolate, and ice cream. Eat as much fish as you can, especially the oily types and salad dressings made with vinegar. These will reduce the pain of your heartburn and help you digest your food better.
If you are experiencing heartburn frequently, chewing gum before you go to bed is a great idea. Chewing gum before going to bed will help open your airways, reduce acid production, and stop stomach acid from returning up into your esophagus.
Another thing that you can do to avoid heartburn is to eliminate certain foods from your diet. If you’re consuming a lot of fried foods, stop now. Fried foods tend to make heartburn worse.
Heartburn symptoms can sometimes be confused with the symptoms of GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease). Heartburn is a symptom, just like GERD. If you have severe heartburn symptoms, it is essential to visit your doctor for a proper diagnosis immediately.
If left untreated, it may lead to more severe health problems.
Heartburn treatments come in many forms. Some people find relief by using over-the-counter antacids such as Tums or Rolaids.
These products work quickly, providing quick relief from the discomfort of heartburn. However, they are not considered a long-term solution because they only offer short-term solutions to acid reflux and do not treat the root cause of heartburn.
Long-term treatment for heartburn and acid reflux occurs with lifestyle changes. An essential change you can do to stop heartburn and GERD occurs when you learn how to strengthen your lower esophagus and stomach muscles.
Heartburn occurs when the sphincter at the top of your stomach does not correctly perform. You must learn how to maintain this muscle to ensure that you never suffer from heartburn again.
Strengthening the sphincter muscle will stop the stomach acid from entering the esophagus, causing heartburn and other digestive-related problems.
Other lifestyle changes you may wish to consider making include including a daily exercise routine. Although it is difficult to exercise occasionally, it is necessary to maintain a normal lifestyle to remain healthy.
You will also find that if you make dietary changes, you will have fewer instances of heartburn. By making the right lifestyle changes, you can prevent having an occasional heartburn episode and permanently eliminate it.
4 Natural Treatments for Heartburn Symptoms
1. Improve Your Diet and Avoid Trigger Foods
Research suggests that foods that tend to make heartburn worse, and therefore should be avoided, include:
- Processed foods high in things like salt, sugar, refined oils, and synthetic additives
- Alcohol and caffeinated drinks
- Carbonated beverages, sugary drinks, or energy drinks
- Too much added sugar and artificial sweeteners
- Fried foods and vegetable oils, including canola oil
- Spicy foods
- Sometimes acid foods like citrus fruits, garlic, onions, and tomatoes
Consume more fresh organic vegetables (especially leafy greens, squash, artichoke, asparagus, and cucumbers), free-range chicken and grass-fed beef, probiotic foods like yogurt, bone broth, healthy fats like coconut or olive oil, parsley, ginger, and fennel. (9)
I also recommend trying to balance the pH in your stomach by taking digestive enzymes, HCL with pepsin supplements, and using apple cider vinegar right before your meals.
Take one tablespoon of vinegar with just a minimal amount of water before eating. It would help if you also tried eating smaller portion sizes throughout the day, which puts less pressure on the digestive organs.
Try to plan meals so you eat several hours before bedtime and aren’t laying down soon after eating meals.
2. Exercise and Maintain a Healthy Weight
Obesity, sedentary lifestyle, and nocturnal gastroesophageal reflux or heartburn (experiencing symptoms at night that interfere with sleep) are some of the most important mechanisms associated with severe esophageal and extraesophageal complications of heartburn.
(10) Regular exercise (at least 30 minutes per day) can help you manage your weight more efficiently, reduce inflammation, help you cope with stress, and improve sleep quality.
However, balance is everything since too much exercise can take a toll on the endocrine, immune and nervous systems, getting too little rest or time for relaxation.
3. Avoid Smoking and Too Much Alcohol or Caffeine
Smoking is one of the leading risk factors for acid reflux and various other diseases.
Consuming too much alcohol and smoking cigarettes impairs muscle reflexes and increases acid production, not to mention raising inflammation and impacting digestion in other ways.
Try to do whatever you can to quit using tobacco products as soon as possible.
You also want to avoid caffeine overdose, which can wreak havoc on digestion as well.
4. Change Your Sleeping Position If You Suffer at Night
Many find relief from painful heartburn symptoms that occur at night when they get enough sleep in general and try raising the heads of their beds several inches.
This can help stop stomach acid from creeping up as it positions the head above the digestive organs.
Sleeping and relaxing enough (if you’re currently not) help regulate hormones and enzymes linked to digestion, balancing hormones, and allowing the body to better handle stress.
Precautions When Treating Heartburn
If your symptoms keep coming back week after week despite changing your diet and other habits, it’s a good idea to consult with your doctor.
There are many different reasons you might be struggling with heartburn, and a professional evaluation can help you pinpoint possible culprits.
It’s possible that heartburn symptoms can worsen from taking medications, such as the birth control pill or certain drugs used to treat high blood pressure, so talk to your doctor about alternative options.
During symptom flare-ups, be careful to avoid smoking cigarettes, drinking too much alcohol or caffeine, exercising, and immediately laying down.
Look out for warning signs of a bigger problem, such as vomiting for several days, black or bloody stools, lots of trouble breathing, or sharp chest pains with numbness.
Consult your doctor right away if you experience lots of hoarseness, worsening of asthma after meals, pain following persistent exercise, difficulty breathing that occurs mainly at night, and trouble swallowing for more than one to two days.
Final Thoughts on Heartburn Symptoms and Relief
- Heartburn is a widespread digestive problem linked to acid reflux, a condition where stomach acid and other contents flow backward from the stomach into the esophagus. This causes heartburn symptoms like burning sensations, chest pain, a sour taste in the mouth, and sometimes coughing or gassiness.
- Risk factors and heartburn causes include eating a poor diet, obesity, a sedentary lifestyle, older age, and high levels of inflammation.
- Ways to help treat heartburn naturally include reducing problematic foods that interfere with gut health, changing certain medications, exercising, losing weight, and managing stress better.