While occasional heartburn isn’t really dangerous, it can be very uncomfortable. Sometimes it can even be frightening, as it may cause symptoms that are like those of a heart attack. Heartburn is marked by the stomach acid’s irritation of the esophagus, which leads to an uncomfortable burning sensation. Fortunately, occasional heartburn is treatable.
For those who have only occasional mild-to-moderate heartburn, home treatment may be enough to reduce symptoms and increase comfort. Lifestyle changes can be particularly helpful. For example, a change in eating habits may help to treat heartburn; eating several meals each day, instead of two or three larger meals, may help to reduce symptoms. It’s also a good idea to avoid lying down within the first two to three hours after eating a meal. Heartburn sufferers should avoid eating late at night as well; this also goes for snacking.
Certain foods may aggravate symptoms, and avoiding them is important when attempting to treat heartburn. Among the food culprits are chocolate and mint, which work to make the valve between the stomach and esophagus more relaxed, increasing heartburn symptoms. It’s also wise to avoid alcohol for the same reason. Some people experience an increase in heartburn symptoms when they eat spicy and acidic foods, smoke cigarettes, chew tobacco, or drink coffee, so it’s best to avoid them.
How a person sleeps and what he wears may also contribute to heartburn. If symptoms occur at night, raising the bed about 6 inches (16.24 centimeters) may help. Placing foam wedges under the head of the bed may accomplish this. It’s also a good idea to avoid tight clothing. For some, losing excess weight may help to treat heartburn as well.
There are many over-the-counter medications that treat heartburn. For example, non-prescription antacids may help to neutralize stomach acids. Other medications may form a barrier between the esophagus and stomach acid. A stomach acid reducer may help to reduce the amount of acid the stomach produces. While these medications may be helpful, it is best to contact a doctor to treat heartburn that occurs frequently. In some cases, a patient may have a more serious condition or a case of heartburn that requires prescription treatment.
If a person has attempted to treat heartburn for more than two weeks without significant relief from over-the-counter-measures, it’s best to contact a doctor. A person should also seek medical attention if he has blood in his stools or vomit or experiences difficulty swallowing that is not relieved by at-home remedies. Unexplained weight loss may also indicate a need for medical attention.