Gastro-Esophageal Reflux Diseases


About Heartburn

Heartburn is a burning pain in your chest, caused by stomach acid travelling up towards the throat (acid reflux). The pain is often worse after eating, in the evening, or when lying down or bending over.
Usually heartburn is common and is no cause for alarm. Life-style changes and over the counter medications will resolve these issues normally.
Heartburn that is more frequent may be a symptom of a more serious condition that requires medical care.

Symptoms of Heartburn

Symptoms of heartburn include:

  • A burning pain in the chest that usually occurs after eating and may occur at night
  • Stomach acid refluxes up into the esophagus and causes pain
  • Pain that worsens when lying down or bending over
  • An unpleasant sour taste in the mouth, caused by stomach acid

Diagnosis of Heartburn

To determine if your heartburn is a symptom of GERD, the doctor may recommend:

  • Endoscopy: to check for abnormalities in your esophagus. A tissue sample (biopsy) may be taken for pylori testing.
  • Esophageal pH Monitoring and Impedance Testing: to identify when, and for how long, stomach acid backs up into your esophagus. An acid monitor that is placed in your esophagus connects to a small computer that you wear around your waist or on a strap over your shoulder.
  • Esophageal Manometry: to measure movement and pressure in your esophagus.

Treatment of Heartburn

There are several ways to treat and avoid heartburn with lifestyle changes.

  • Lose weight and maintain your ideal weight. Excess weight increases the pressure on the stomach, increasing the chance of acid reflux into the esophagus.
  • Quit smoking: Smoking interferes with the proper functioning of the lower esophageal sphincter.
  • Avoid foods that aggravate heartburn and replace them with healthy foods. Avoid foods that trigger heartburn (see previously). Consider keeping a food journal to alert you to foods that make your heartburn worse. Decrease the amount of food you eat.
  • Elevate the head of the bed: If you are experiencing heartburn at night, elevating the head of the bed will decrease reflux.

Many over-the-counter medications can help relieve heartburn. The options include:

  • Antacids that neutralize stomach acid to cut down on heartburn, sour stomach, acid indigestion, and stomach upset. Antacids may provide quick relief. But they can’t heal an esophagus damaged by stomach acid.
  • H-2-receptor antagonists (H2RAs), which can reduce stomach acid. H2RAs don’t act as quickly as antacids, but may provide longer relief.
  • Proton pump inhibitors, such as lansoprazole and omeprazole, which also can reduce stomach acid.

If over-the-counter treatments don’t work or you rely on them too often, see your doctor. You may need prescription medication and further testing.