Heartburn / GERD

What is Heartburn?

Heartburn, or acid reflux, is a physical condition in which acid from the stomach flows in the wrong direction, backward up into the esophagus. This condition usually leads to heartburn symptoms, including a burning pain in the chest and an acidic or bitter taste in the mouth. These symptoms can last for several hours and they are often heightened after eating food. Frequent heartburn (two or more times a week) can be associated with a more severe problem, GERD or gastroesophageal reflux disease.

What causes GERD?

To get a better understanding of GERD and its causes, it is important to examine the causes of heartburn. With heartburn, the lining of the esophagus has come into contact with too much stomach acid, digestive enzymes and other harmful materials for a long period of time. With prolonged contact of acidic stomach fluid, the esophageal lining produces a burning sensation and injures the esophagus. For the most part, the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), which is a muscular valve at the lower end of the esophagus, keeps acid in the stomach and away from the esophagus. With GERD, the lower esophageal sphincter relaxes too frequently and allows stomach acid to flow backward.

How can I prevent acid reflux?

Infrequent heartburn can be controlled with over-the-counter medication and modifications to your lifestyle. Avoiding the foods and liquids that contribute to heartburn, including coffee, spicy or greasy foods, alcohol, tomato products, peppermint and chocolate, can also help. If you are a smoker, there are many reasons to quit, and you can add acid reflux to the list. Tobacco inhibits saliva, which is a major buffer for the body. Tobacco might also stimulate stomach acid production and relax the muscle between the stomach and the esophagus. This can permit reflux to occur.

Diet and weight loss can also help to address infrequent heartburn and more severe cases. We recommend that you avoid foods and medications that lower LES tone, such as sweets and fats. Foods that may irritate the damaged lining of the esophagus, such as pepper, citrus juice and tomato juice, should also be avoided. The times you eat can also help with heartburn. You should avoid lying down for two hours after you’ve eaten, and you should also avoid eating two hours before your bedtime. This will help to decrease the amount of stomach acid that is available for reflux.

Schedule an appointment in Fairbanks, Alaska

If you suffer from frequent heartburn or GERD and you live in or near Fairbanks, Dr. Nick Sarrimanolis can help.* Dr. Sarrimanolis and staff provide evaluation and management for patients who are looking to reduce instances of heartburn and improve their overall health.* To get started, request an appointment online or over the phone, at (907) 451-1174.

*Individual results may vary; not a guarantee.

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