Heartburn is a symptom characteristic to many disorders of the gastrointestinal tract and it can also be a sign of heart disease. However, heartburn is most commonly experienced by gastro-esophageal disease (acid reflux) sufferers. Heartburn is a sensation of soreness and burning, generally located in the central region of the chest. Accompanied by inflamed throat, difficulty swallowing and difficulty breathing, heartburn is frequently experienced by people with acid reflux.
Gastro-esophageal reflux disease, commonly referred to as acid reflux, involves regurgitation of the stomach’s content inside the upper levels of the esophagus. Due to increased pressure at the level of the abdomen, low pressure at the level of the esophageal lining or weakness of the esophageal sphincter, stomach gastric acid is pushed upwards and it may even reach inside the oral cavity. In the absence of medical treatment, people who suffer from chronic forms of acid reflux disease are very exposed to the development of serious complications. Frequent regurgitation of stomach digestive fluids inside the gastro-esophageal tract can cause inflammation, ulcerations and open lesions of various internal soft tissues and organs.
Although everyone may experience heartburn every once in a while, especially after a rich meal, the recurrence of this symptom generally points to acid reflux. Although the undesirable effects of acid reflux can be kept under control with the help of antacids and other over-the-counter acid-reducing medications, people who suffer from acid reflux should see a doctor in order to receive an appropriate medical treatment.
Without appropriate treatment, acid reflux can in time lead to the development of Barrett's esophagus, a serious condition that can further lead to esophageal cancer. Barrett’s esophagus involves scarring of the gastro-esophageal tract’s lining due to frequent exposure to stomach acid. This disorder is developed by around 10 percent of acid reflux sufferers. Furthermore, 5 – 10 percent of people who suffer from Barrett’s esophagus may later develop esophageal cancer. Ongoing, intense heartburn that doesn’t ameliorate with medications may be an indicator of Barrett’s esophagus.
In order to avoid such complications, acid reflux sufferers should take measures in minimizing the undesirable effects of their disease. Apart from respecting a medical treatment recommended by the doctor, acid reflux sufferers should make lifestyle changes and diet improvements. People with acid reflux are advised to abstain from smoking and alcoholic beverages, as these factors greatly contribute to the progression of the disease. Acid reflux sufferers should eat smaller portions of food during meals and they should avoid eating right before going to bed. It is best to eat 5-6 smaller meals rather than 2-3 large meals a day. Remember that a good digestion can considerably reduce the frequency and intensity of acid reflux symptoms, also minimizing the risks of complications.
Author: Groshan Fabiola