Heartburn

Heartburn Specialist
The first time you feel a burning sensation directly over your heart, it can be scary. Even though heartburn is rarely dangerous, it can cause discomfort, and develop into acid reflux. At Metropolitan Gastroenterology Consultants, Darrien Gaston, MD, FACP, FACG, can treat your heartburn, and help prevent it in the future. If you’re located in the Chicago area, and looking for an experienced gastroenterologist, contact Dr. Gaston’s office today. Call to schedule your appointment, or book online.

Heartburn Q & A

by Darrien Gaston, MD, FACP, FACG

What is heartburn?

Heartburn is an irritation of the esophagus that’s caused by stomach acid. It often causes burning in your chest, near your heart.

Heartburn often begins when the muscular valve in your lower esophageal sphincter (LES) starts to fail. Located where the esophagus meets the stomach, this valve is designed to keep stomach acid out of your throat.

When you have heartburn, that valve malfunctions and either opens too often, or doesn’t close tight. Heartburn is typically caused by overeating or putting too much pressure on the stomach, which can be the result of:

  • Obesity
  • Pregnancy
  • Constipation

What is acid reflux?

If you have heartburn at least twice a week and chest pain accompanies it, you may have acid reflux, also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

GERD is often caused when your upper stomach and LES move above your diaphragm, creating a hiatal hernia. Because your diaphragm is unable to keep the stomach acid contained, the fluid can move into your esophagus.

Beyond heartburn symptoms, acid reflux may also cause regurgitation of stomach acid, leaving a sour or bitter taste in your mouth.

Left untreated, this condition can lead to complications, including:

  • Ulcers
  • Chronic cough
  • Laryngitis
  • Narrowing esophagus
  • Barrett’s esophagus
  • Increased risk of esophagus cancer

How is heartburn treated?

One of the easiest ways to prevent heartburn is to eat small meals, and avoid overeating Dr. Gaston recommends avoiding certain foods that create more stomach acid, including:

  • Tomatoes
  • Citrus fruits
  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Alcohol
  • Coffee

Certain medications can also increase your risk of heartburn. High stress levels and too little sleep increase the amount of stomach acid you produce, and therefore raise your risk of heartburn.

To reduce the severity and frequency of GERD, Dr. Gaston suggests:

  • Quitting smoking
  • Sleeping with your head in a raised position
  • Napping in a chair
  • Eating 2-3 hours before bed
  • Maintaining a healthy weight

If heartburn or acid reflux are disrupting your life, find help with Dr. Gaston. Call the office to schedule your appointment, or book it online today.

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