Questions about Heartburn

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Everyone has heartburn once in a while (especially after eating large meals), but if you have it daily and it’s accompanied by other symptoms, it could be something more serious.

You should be concerned if:

  • You have severe chest pain. Heartburn that comes with chest pain, shortness of breath, weakness, irregular heartbeat, and pain in your arm, shoulder or face may not be heartburn. It may be a heart attack or other severe cardiac event. For these symptoms, call 911 immediately.
  • Antacids don’t help. If antacid medications don’t soothe your heartburn, or if they never worked in the first place, your heartburn may have progressed to GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease). GERD is a condition in which acid that belongs in your stomach backs up into your esophagus. The acid irritates and inflames the lining of the esophagus, causing a burning sensation. If you have heartburn that occurs several times a week, for more than two weeks, then it’s time to see your doctor.
  • You have unintentional weight loss or stomach symptoms. If you’re losing weight quickly without trying, have frequent nausea and/or diarrhea, are vomiting blood, or notice bloody stool, seek immediate medical attention. These symptoms can signal a whole range of illnesses from cancer to food poisoning.

Prevent future bouts of heartburn:

  • Lose weight. Extra pounds can make heartburn worse.
  • Skip smoking. If you smoke, quit.
  • Loosen up. Wear comfy, loose clothing. If you feel indigestion, loosen your belt or change clothes to ease the pressure.
  • Watch what you eat. Limit your portion sizes, as overeating can lead to heartburn. You should also pay attention to what foods leave you miserable, and try to avoid them – typically these are very fatty, spicy and fried foods.
  • Elevate after you eat. Slightly raise the head of your bed so that you can sleep on a bit of an incline and keep stomach acids in your stomach where they belong. And try not to eat too close to bedtime.