When the esophagus catches fire

A Bunsen burner in the stomach – this is how many sufferers describe the feeling of heartburn. In western countries, 10 to 20 percent of people suffer from heartburn. Find out why you get heartburn and how you can relieve it with simple Diaet Check lifestyle changes.

The Sunday roast at grandparents’, a large portion of currywurst and a glass of wheat beer sound like a perfect day to many, while others get heartburn at the thought of it. If you regularly suffer from heartburn, you are one of the people who suffer from reflux disease (GERD). Household remedies such as a glass of milk are not enough and medicines do not work for a third of the patients.

Since the disease is not only annoying, but also increases the risk of esophageal cancer, you should change some of your habits. You can read in this article what these are and how you can prevent heartburn with the right diet. And if you’ve just eaten too much or are suffering from heartburn due to pregnancy, you’ll find information on helpful home remedies that can relieve your pain.

What happens with heartburn?

Reflux disease GERD – reflux from the esophagusOur esophagus serves as a pure transport organ. However, food does not simply flow from the esophagus into the stomach automatically. A complex sphincter muscle opens during swallowing, the food flows into the stomach and the sphincter rests on the upper stomach opening.

In heartburn, the contents of the stomach return to the oesophagus with the strongly corrosive gastric juice. This is referred to as reflux. Since the esophagus, in contrast to the stomach, has no protective mucous membrane, pain develops in the entire chest area, the so-called heartburn. In the long run, reflux can damage the esophagus, which can lead to inflammation of the esophagus.

Did you know that men produce more gastric acid than women?

Reflux Disease: The Constant Heartburn

The so-called reflux disease of the oesophagus, often abbreviated as GERD, can also develop over several years from occasional burning. If left untreated, reflux disease leads to permanent tissue damage and inflammation of the esophageal mucosa. Signs of this are permanent difficulty swallowing, chronic coughing, which can sometimes be painful, wheezing, difficulty breathing and severe chest pain. These symptoms usually occur at night and tend to recur, monthly or even daily.

What are the causes of heartburn?

There may be different reasons why your stomach contents flow back into the esophagus. Whether it is increasing age, overweight, pregnancy, medication or the wrong food – they can all trigger heartburn.

With increasing age, the strength of the sphincter muscle at the stomach entrance can decrease. This muscle functions like a valve that lets the food paste into the stomach, but prevents the stomach contents from flowing back into the oesophagus. When the occlusive force decreases, the acid stomach contents can return to the esophagus.

If the patient is very overweight, strong pressure acts on the stomach so that stomach acid can rise into the oesophagus. For the same reason, women can often feel an unpleasant burning sensation in the esophagus during the last third of pregnancy.

Drugs relieve heartburn, but they can also cause and intensify it. This is the case with these active substances:

  • Calcium antagonists, to lower blood pressure
  • Nitro preparations, for vascular dilatation
  • Theophyllines and aminophyllines, for asthma
  • Benzodiazepines, for depression and as sleeping pills
  • preparations containing peppermint
  • estrogen preparations

Medication with anticholinergic effect.

If you are not sure if your medication contains any of these substances, you can ask your doctor or pharmacist for advice.

Good to know: heartburn can not only rob you of sleep, it also works the other way round: sleep disorders favour and worsen heartburn, according to the summary of a study of several studies. The exact mechanisms have not yet been clarified. In addition, sleeping pills containing the active ingredient zolpidem can lead to heartburn at night.

Heartburn during pregnancy

20 to 50 percent of pregnant women suffer from heartburn. The reason for this is the hormones that loosen the sphincter muscle to the esophagus and the growing uterus that takes up space in the stomach and pushes the food upwards. The complaints can occur at any time, but become more frequent as pregnancy progresses, as an examination of 510 pregnant women in Germany showed. Heartburn only affects the mother and has no effect on the unborn child. Information on alternative remedies and suitable tips for pregnant women can be found under Therapy – What helps against heartburn.

What are the symptoms of heartburn?

For many, heartburn is a burning pain in the chest, followed by acid or non-acid burping, stomach pressure or a feeling of fullness. Others hardly feel a burning sensation, but suffer from morning coughing and hoarseness or have to clear their throat more often. Swallowing difficulties and asthma attacks are also rare.

Did you know that heartburn is the term used to describe heartburn? Persons with severe heartburn often end up in an emergency ambulance with suspicion of a heart attack because the esophagus is close to the heart.


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