Heartburn—Overview

(Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease; Gastro-oesophageal Reflux Disease [GORD]; GERD; Reflux, Heartburn)

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Definition

Heartburn is a burning sensation in the lower chest. Heartburn can be caused by different conditions, but most often it is related to gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
Heartburn
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Causes

Heartburn is caused by stomach acid that moves up into the esophagus. A muscle at the top of the stomach allows food to enter the stomach. This muscle also closes to prevent food and acid from moving back up into the esophagus. Certain conditions can keep this muscle from closing completely, which allows acid to flow out. This causes heartburn.

Risk Factors

Factors that may increase your chance of heartburn include:
  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Exercising or strenuous activity immediately after eating
  • Lying down, bending over, or straining after eating
  • Pregnancy
  • Prior surgery for heartburn
  • Diabetes
  • Scleroderma
  • Certain nervous system disorders
  • In-dwelling nasogastric tube
Foods and beverages associated with heartburn include:
  • Alcohol use disorder
  • Caffeinated products
  • Citrus fruits
  • Chocolate
  • Fried foods
  • Spicy foods
  • Foods made with tomatoes, such as pizza, chili, or spaghetti sauce
Medications and supplements associated wtih heartburn include:
  • Anticholinergics
  • Calcium channel blockers
  • Theophylline, bronchial inhalers, and other asthma medications
  • Nitrates
  • Sildenafil
  • Bisphosphonates

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