Heart burn: An overview

Heart burn: An overview


Esophagus connects mouth to the stomach. It has got muscles that push forward the food to stomach through rhythmic waves.  The lower esophageal sphincter muscles located at the lower end of esophagus remains closed and prevents the food in the stomach from re-entering the esophagus. The diaphragm that separates the abdomen from the chest also prevents the re-entry of the food.

There are special protective coverings on the inside of the stomach that saves it from inflammation that can be caused by the acidic substances that we eat. The pressure difference experienced across the diaphragm also helps to keep the food inside the stomach. If the acids in the stomach and the digestive juices reflux into esophagus, they may cause inflammation to the unprotected lining and cause damages to the food pipe. This condition is known as heart burn.


Heart burn is not a disease, but a symptom of GERD which is gastroesophageal reflux disease. This is caused by the refluxing of acid back into esophageal tract.

There are some food items that can increase the acid production in our stomach. This sets the stage for heartburn. Alcohol, caffeine, aspirin, aerated drinks etc are some examples of some irritants. Carbonated beverages like cock and acidic juices like grape juice, orange juice etc are also capable of producing heartburn.

Smoking: Smoking and eating high fat content food have been considered as a stimulant to heart burn. These activities can relax the stomach resulting in the reflux of acids inside it.

Hiatal hernia: Hiatus is the opening in the diaphragm through which the food pipe passes. In some persons, through this opening the stomach bulges and reaches the chest. This is known as hiatal hernia. Hiatal hernia does not show any symptoms and when LES fails only heartburn occurs.

Pregnancy: pregnancy can cause increased pressure in the abdominal cavity and predisposes it to reflux.

Obesity: Obesity can also cause increased pressure in the abdomen and can be the cause for reflux.

Treatment and cure

People who suffer from heartburn must have noticed that certain food increases their heart burn.  The important food items that trigger heartburns are detailed below.

  • Chocolate
  • Alcohol
  • Coffee
  • Greasy foods
  • Fatty foods/Fried foods
  • Peppermint
  • Orange, Lemon and similar citrus juices
  • Tomato sauce and tomatoes
  • Spicy foods

Big meals have been found to create heartburns. So make the meals smaller and increase the number of meals eaten per day. Also try to avoid the irritants as far as possible. These are easy methods that can be followed by any one and avoid the inconvenience of heart burns.

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