Heartburn Treatments in Woburn, MA
What Causes Heartburn?
Heartburn is a burning feeling that occurs in the chest that may be accompanied by a bitter taste in the throat. Heartburn is often a symptom of acid reflux, a condition caused by a dysfunctional esophageal sphincter in which stomach contents re-enter the esophagus. If heartburn and acid reflux persist—more than twice a week—a troubling condition known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) may be at play. GERD, left untreated, can lead to more frequent and damaging heartburn, as well as inflammation (esophagitis).
Fortunately, heartburn, acid reflux, and GERD can all be controlled with effective lifestyle changes and various medical treatments. To schedule an appointment with a healthcare practitioner in Woburn who specializes in heartburn treatments, call (781) 933-4200 or contact OptimalWellnessMD online.
What Causes Heartburn?
Heartburn is a direct result of acid reflux. The lower esophageal sphincter is responsible for keeping food and acid in the stomach. If this sphincter relaxes too frequently or becomes weak, then stomach acid re-enters the esophagus, resulting in acid reflux. Sometimes, acid reflux can progress into gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), a more severe form of reflux. The most common symptom of GERD is frequent heartburn, and GERD requires life-long treatment to prevent serious damage to the esophagus.
In addition to GERD, there are other conditions that can cause acid reflux and heartburn. One example is a hiatal hernia, a condition that occurs when the stomach pushes up through the diaphragm into the chest. Another condition that can cause heartburn symptoms is a peptic ulcer, an open sore in the inside lining of the stomach.
Certain risk factors and lifestyle choices can increase the severity and frequency of heartburn episodes, including:
- Using breath mints
- Drinking coffee, alcohol, or carbonated drinks
- Lying down too soon after eating
- Eating chocolate, fatty foods, spicy foods, tomato products, citrus fruits, or onions
- Certain medications, such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or those for high blood pressure
Heartburn symptoms are caused by the irritation of the esophagus by the stomach acid, which manifests itself as a burning pain in the middle of the chest and sometimes accompanied by an acidic taste in the back of the mouth. Other common symptoms of heartburn include stomach pain, chronic cough, and a sore throat.
More serious heartburn symptoms can include difficulty swallowing, persistent nausea or vomiting, difficulty eating or poor appetite, and weight loss.
Please note that if you are experiencing heartburn along with shortness of breath, discomfort in the arms or neck, dizziness or cold sweats, you may be suffering a heart attack. If this is the case, please contact emergency personnel immediately.
Diagnosis of Heartburn
There are various tests that can be performed to diagnose heartburn or GERD. These tests include:
- X-ray: This test can reveal the shape and condition of the esophagus and stomach.
- Endoscopy: A flexible scope is used to examine the esophagus and stomach. A biopsy, or tissue sample, may also be taken for further testing.
- Ambulatory pH tests: A small tube is inserted through your nose to measure the level of acidity in the esophagus. This test can also determine when acid reflux occurs and for how long it has been occurring.
- Esophageal motility testing: This test measures the movement and pressure in your esophagus.
How to Relieve Heartburn
There are various ways to treat heartburn. In extreme cases, a fundoplication surgical procedure can be performed, in which the top part of the stomach is wrapped around the lower part of the esophagus to prevent further acid reflux and heartburn symptoms. In most cases however, heartburn treatments include home remedies and medications.
Home Remedies for Heartburn
There are various home remedies that can help to both treat and prevent heartburn. These remedies are especially important for pregnant women, as there are no clear studies on the effects of heartburn medication on a growing fetus. Some of these home remedies include:
- Avoiding meals 2-3 hours before bedtime
- Eating smaller portioned meals
- Not laying down after a meal
- Elevating the head of the bed while sleeping
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Wearing loose clothing around the waist
- Avoiding smoking
- Avoiding acidic, fried, processed, and fatty foods
- Controlling stress levels
- Evaluating medication intake
Your healthcare provider may also recommend certain dietary supplements to relieve your heartburn including digestive enzymes, betaine, pepsin, and probiotics. You should only begin taking a nutritional supplement under the guidance of your healthcare practitioner.
There are various over-the-counter medications and prescription medications that can improve your heartburn. Whether or not these drugs are prescribed depends on the strength needed to treat your specific case of heartburn. Before taking medication, talk with your healthcare provider about which medication might be right for you. Do not take heartburn medication if you are pregnant.
Antacids such as Tums neutralize the acid in your stomach, bringing quick relief to heartburn symptoms. However, these drugs are a temporary solution, do not heal existing damage, and may cause diarrhea or constipation. H2 blockers such as Zantac reduce the amount of acid your stomach makes. Proton pump inhibitors like Prilosec and Pantocid DSR can also block the production of acid.
Heartburn is a common condition that can cause serious discomfort and health problems if left untreated. If your heartburn occurs more than twice a week or if symptoms continue with the use of over-the-counter medications, it is important to seek medical care. To schedule an appointment in Woburn with a practitioner who can alleviate your discomfort, call (781) 933-4200 or contact OptimalWellnessMD online.
Optimal Wellness MD
Address300 Trade Center
Woburn, MA 01801
8:30 am - 4:00 pm
Tue: 8:30 am - 4:00 pm
Wed: 8:30 am - 4:00 pm
Thu: 8:30 am - 4:00 pm