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What Causes Heartburn?

I'm sure you've all experienced heartburn once in your life, some unfortunately more than others. Maybe you ate a spicy meal, a huge meal or a huge spicy meal and got that overwhelming burning sensation in your lower chest. But it doesn't stop there, it can start to creep up into your esophagus and into your throat.

You may know this already, but heartburn doesn't actually affect the heart at all. When you eat, food passes from your mouth down a tube called the esophagus. In order to enter the stomach to be digested, the food must pass through an opening between the esophagus and the stomach.

This opening is like a gate, and soon closes after food passes into your tummy. Sometimes it doesn't quite close, and stomach acid can get through that opening and move into your esophagus. This is called reflux and it's what causes that burning sensation.

Heartburn can be affected by being overweight, smoking cigarettes, drinking coffee or other beverages that contain caffeine, alcohol, citrus fruits, tomatoes, onion, chocolate, mints, fatty or spicy foods, or taking aspirin or ibuprofen.

If you do get a sudden case of heartburn, try to keep yourself upright. If you are lying down, prop yourself up with some pillows since this will prevent more acid from seeping into your esophagus.

Taking an antacid can help (it neutralizes the acid in your stomach). Take ones that contain both magnesium hydroxide and aluminum hydroxide (one causes constipation while the other causes diarrhea so they counteract each other) like over-the-counter brands include Maalox and Mylanta.

Want to know how you can prevent it? Then

  • Don't overeat.
  • Stop eating 2-3 hours before lying down for bed.
  • Lose excess weight.
  • Don't wear belts or clothes that are tight fitting around your waist - this will squeeze your stomach and force food and acid back up towards the esophagus.
  • Eat high-protein, low-fat meals.
  • If you've eaten something in the past and it's given you heartburn - don't eat it again.
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