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Heartburn

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Heartburn is a common issue among people; many suffer from it not knowing that it is usually easily avoidable. So, What is a Heartburn?

Heartburn can be explained as the accumulation of excessive hydrochloric acid (HCl) secreted by the stomach, which is one of the important acids for the digestion of nutrients inside the body. There is a protective valve at the top of the stomach at the end of the esophagus; its function is to stop food from regurgitating upwards once more after it has entered the stomach to be digested. This valve may sometimes loosen, causing the hydrochloric acid to rise upwards towards the esophagus, which causes a disturbing pain and a burning sensation in the chest; this is called Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD).

Stomach Digestion

The stomach receives the food from the esophagus, which is a long muscular tube connecting the mouth to the stomach; the muscles of the esophagus push the food downwards towards the stomach through a wavelike movement. The stomach contains a mixture of food, enzymes, and digestive acids that initiate the digestive the process; yet, why does this mixture not affect the stomach lining itself, while it causes severe inflammation in the esophagus in case the acid refluxes?

The stomach is lined from the inside with a specific kind of protective cells, which prevent the acid from affecting the stomach or inflaming it; this protective lining does not exist inside the esophagus. The stomach develops an ulcer if this protective lining is eroded or damaged for any reason; the degree and severity of the ulcer depend on the damage done to the lining.

You may like to watch this video about GERD and Heartburn:

Causes

Heartburn can be attributed to the reflux of excessive acid towards the esophagus, causing severe inflamation. Excess acid secretion may be caused by several factors; such as: overconsumption of certain types of foods and beverages, like citric foods (tomatoes, oranges, and grapefruites), or unprescribed drugs, like painkillers (aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen), or caffein, or smoking, all of which cause the laxity of the muscular valve at the top of the stomach, allowing acid to reflux.

There are also temporary causes that lead to heartburn, which goes away once the cause ends, such as in the case of pregnancy—as it increases pressure on the stomach, leading to acid reflux—as well as obesity.

Symptoms

Usually, the symptoms are manifested as a burning sensation in the chest, in the area behind the sternum bone. The pain can be in sporadic bouts or it can be a continuous sharp pain; the symptoms of heartburn are often confused with those of heart-attacks. The acid continues to rise, sometimes reaching the back of the throat; the patient then senses an acidic or stingy taste, and the symptoms deteriorate after the consumption of fatty meals or sleeping on the backside.

Treatment

Heartburn can be controlled through some arrangements and steps, in addition to chemical treatment. Mild heartburn can be treated using drugs that contain small amounts of mild alkalis, such as sodium bicarbonate (Na2HCO3), which equalize the excessive acid, causing the heartburn to dissipate.

Changing lifestyle and nutritional diet is a powerful factor in getting rid of heartburn; that would be through increasing the number of meals, while decreasing the quantities of food consumed per meal, as well as not eating right before going to bed, quitting smoking, and exercising regularly.

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Many of everyday malaises that attack us can be controled through simple steps in the right direction, which help us avoid the side effects and damages caused by chemical medicines, which in turn may lead to other diseases.

 

References 

chem.libretexts.org

rxlist.com

sciencedirect.com

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