A Heartburn Symptom or pyrosis is a painful or burning sensation in the esophagus felt just below the breastbone caused by regurgitation of gastric acid. The corrosive effect of this regurgitation of gastric acid can also cause the pain to rise in the chest and be felt in the neck, throat, or angle of the jaw. However you should not get that heartburn symptom too often but if it occurs more than say twice a week it can mean you may have Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease commonly called GERD. Obviously you need to see your Doctor to confirm the diagnosis.
A heartburn symptom is suffered by millions of people at least once a week but there are many natural treatments which can help, and taking antacids can also be effective for heartburn treatment. Daily treatment with antacids is enough for between 25-30% of people, although I would not recommend you take antacids on a regular basis due to side effects they may have . It has also been suggested that drinking a large glass of water helps by diluting the low pH (acidic) levels in the stomach and allows the pain to temporarily subside.
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Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease is a condition where the liquid contents of the stomach flows back up and enters the esophagus (or refluxes). GERD is a chronic condition and once you have this it usually lasts your entire life. The regurgitated liquid contains stomach acid and pepsin which is an enzyme produced by the stomach to digest the proteins in the stomach from your food. Reflux can also contain Bile which has flowed up into the stomach from the Duodenum this is the part of the small intestine at the lower part of the stomach. However the stomach acid is believed to be the component most likely to cause injury such as inflammation and damage to the esophagus. Acid reflux medication can help to heal the damaged esophagus but if treatment is stopped it usually does not take too long for the symptoms to re-appear and treatment for acid reflux usually has to be continued for life.
Studies have found that reflux of liquid from the stomach into the esophagus occurs in most people, however people with GERD usually have a lot more stomach acid and it remains in the esophagus longer thereby potentially causing severe GERD symptoms and can cause esophagus problems.
Acid Reflux Natural Protection
The body has natural protection from the potential damage from acid Reflux in that it often occurs during the day when people are usually in an upright position which allows the effects of gravity to assist the downward flow of the stomach acid. The saliva in the mouth which we continually swallow when we are awake contains bicarbonate which is a natural neutralizer for acid. The act of swallowing sends any refluxed liquid back into the stomach with the bicarbonate containing saliva helping to neutralise it. Therefore the simple act of swallowing helps to remove and neutralize the acid during the day acting as a natural cure. Unfortunately at night these natural defences are not in effect and when acid reflux appears the acid lies in the esophagus for longer where it can cause heartburn and damage to the lining of the esophagus. These acid reflux symptoms need to be attended to before they develop into anything worse.
Although many people can relieve their reflux disease symptoms by making changes in their habits and lifestyle such as dietary changes and or weight loss, others will need active treatment and seek acid reflux medicine from their doctor.
When should you call your doctor?
If the acid reflux symptom is frequent, persistent or simply making your life unpleasant see your Doctor. He or she can decide on any heartburn treatment required, or if further investigation is needed. If you have any difficulty swallowing, you should see your doctor as soon as possible. Failure to see your doctor about acid reflux could result in the condition worsening.
Possible investigations which your doctor may recommend are Barium esophagram (a liquid is swallowed which shows up on X-ray), or 24-hour pH monitoring with both esophageal and pharyngeal probes. Esophagoscopy can also be carried out and then medication can be prescribed per the requirement. It is important that you consult with your Doctor as some potential complications of prolonged untreated GERD can be serious. An example is Barrett’s esophagus in which prolonged or severe GERD causes changes to the cells lining the esophagus which becomes pre-cancerous and finally cancerous. This condition occurs in approximately 10% of patients with GERD. It is not known why some people with GERD are susceptible whilst most are not what is important is that they are monitored so that cancer preventing treatment can be started.
So if your heartburn symptom is becoming more frequent you know know what to do.