Burning questions on heartburn answered

Published On: Nov 19 2012 01:21:30 PM EST
Updated On: Dec 03 2012 11:41:43 AM EST
woman with hands on stomach

iStock / szefei

By Marianne Aleardi, Pure Matters

1. So many people have heartburn that it can't be that serious.

True

False

Answer: False. Heartburn may be a symptom of gastroesophageal reflux disease, which can lead to irritation and erosion of the esophageal epithelium, changes in the epithelium of the esophagus that may set the stage for esophageal cancer, scarring and narrowing of the esophagus (stricture), a higher risk of esophageal cancer and a lung problem, aspiration pneumonia.

2. Heartburn sufferers may think they're having a heart attack.

True

False

Answer: True. "About one-third of heartburn sufferers experience chest pain that is indistinguishable from the chest pain associated with heart attack," says William D. Chey, M.D., director of the gastrointestinal physiology lab at the University of Michigan Medical School. If you have prolonged chest pain, go to an emergency room right away for a proper diagnosis.

3. That burning sensation patients feel really is burning.

True

False

Answer: True. The burning occurs when stomach acid backs up into the esophagus, the tube that runs from the mouth to the stomach. Normally this acid stays in the stomach below a valve that lets food enter the stomach but shouldn't let anything back into the esophagus. If the valve weakens or is unable to close for other reasons, acid may get through and irritate the lining of the esophagus.

4. There isn't a lot you can do to help heartburn.

True

False

Answer: False. Simple changes can go a long way toward reducing heartburn, says Dr. Chey. "Avoid fatty or greasy foods, caffeine, carbonated beverages, wine and citrus drinks. Stop smoking and lose weight if you need to." Other changes you can make: Avoid lying down just after a meal; raise the head of your bed by four to six inches; eat smaller, more frequent meals instead of three large ones; check with your health care provider before taking aspirin or other NSAID pain medications except acetaminophen.

5. Medications only work for people with occasional heartburn.

True

False

Answer: False. Drugs exist for all heartburn sufferers. Aluminum, magnesium and calcium based antacids neutralize acid that has already been produced by the stomach. Over-the-counter (OTC) H2 blockers decrease acid secretion and the single available OTC proton pump inhibitor completely blocks acid production and are effective for patients with mild heartburn. Patients with frequent or more severe heartburn should be evaluated by a physician before self-prescribing potent medications such as a proton pump blocker. The physician may recommend further testing or a prescription proton pump blocker.

6. Going to sleep on an empty stomach can trigger heartburn.

True

False

Answer: False. Eating and then lying down can trigger heartburn.

Source: http://resources.purematters.com/healthy-body/digestive-health/burning-questions-on-heartburn

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