Why Do I Have Heartburn & Acid Reflux

If you have been told you suffer from heartburn and acid reflux, also known as GERD (gastro esophageal reflux disease), chances are you are not alone. In fact, here in America, heartburn is so prevalent, that it affects nearly 60 million Americans at least once a month and an estimated $11 billion is spent annually on heartburn medications in the US.

The classic symptom of heartburn is the burning sensation in your chest. Often times for those who suffer heartburn and acid reflux, their symptoms worsen when they lie down or bend over. Heartburn occurs when stomach acid backs up into your esophagus. As the acid backs up into the esophagus, the burning in the chest, behind the breastbone, begins. Many people’s symptoms can become severe and start to interfere with their daily lives. Frequently asked questions about their symptoms include: what causes this and what can I do about it?

Heartburn is often the result of certain foods or triggers. Foods known to cause heartburn include: chocolate, coffee, fried or fatty foods, soda pop, alcohol, and orange juice. If you suffer from rare or mild heartburn, a simple adjustment in your diet may improve your symptoms.

Aside from food, there are a few other triggers that are responsible for heartburn symptoms. Smoking has been shown to increase the severity of heartburn symptoms as a result of structural damage to the gastro esophageal junction between the esophagus and the stomach.

Another causative factor of heartburn is stress. Although stress has never been proven to directly increase stomach acid production, it has been shown that it increases the perception of these heartburn symptoms.

Perhaps the biggest trigger that has been shown to directly link to symptom severity is obesity. Obesity has been statistically linked to an increase in heartburn/GERD symptoms. It is believed that the combination of a poor diet, excess abdominal fat, and chemicals released by body fat all play a role in increasing symptom intensity and frequency.

If you suffer from heartburn/acid reflux symptoms on a rare basis, odds are you can alleviate your symptoms by a simple dietary change or an over-the-counter heartburn medication. Unfortunately, if your symptoms are far more common and severe, it may require not only dietary and lifestyle changes, but a visit to your doctor for further treatment and evaluation.

Remember, heartburn is extremely common here in the United States, and its symptoms can intensify to the point where they affect your daily routine. Understanding the causes of your symptoms and knowing the changes needed to improve them can go a long way in returning you back to your normal daily life and limiting the occurrence of heartburn and GERD.

1. http://europepmc.org/abstract/MED/16061918
2. http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20307301_1,00.html
3. http://www.mayoclinic.org/gerd/
4. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3388523