Gastroesophageal reflux disease

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What is Heartburn?

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Common causes of heartburn and GERD and heartburn remedies

By Katherine Solem

Although most people have occasional instances of heartburn, frequent heartburn can signify that you have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). While heartburn is most often not a cause for concern, it can be quite uncomfortable. Here are some of the common causes of heartburn and some remedies for heartburn.

Causes of Heartburn

  • Esophagus irritation: When you eat food or drink liquids, they enter your stomach where certain muscles (called the esophageal sphincter) close off the esophagus. In some instances, these muscles do not do their job properly and the esophagus does not close tightly. This allows your stomach contents to go back up, or “reflux,” into your esophagus. Because many foods are acidic, this can irritate your esophagus causing you to get heartburn.
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  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD): This disease involves frequent heartburn and acid reflux. It is defined by suffering from heartburn and acid reflux each at least twice a week.
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Symptoms of Heartburn

  • Burning sensation in chest: This sensation usually occurs after you have eaten or at night.
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  • Pain worsens when lying down or bending over
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Risk Factors for Heartburn

  • Certain foods and drinks: Certain foods can trigger heartburn, but this varies between individuals. Here are some common heartburn food triggers:
       
    • Alcohol
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    • Black pepper
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    • Chocolate
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    • Coffee
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    • Fatty or fried food
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    • Ketchup or mustard
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    • Onions
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    • Orange juice
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    • Peppermint
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    • Soft drinks
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    • Tomato sauce
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    • Vinegar
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  • Hiatal hernia: This is when the top portion of your stomach protrudes into your chest cavity, making it more likely to have stomach contents enter your esophagus and cause heartburn.
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  • Pregnancy: Heartburn often becomes more frequent and severe during pregnancy.
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