Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Oh No! Heartburn Again!

Does your body ever get back at you for putting those hot peppers or salsa on your plate by giving you heartburn that makes you want to jump out of seat? If so, this heartburn sensation is most likely the result of gastroesophageal reflux (GER).

What Causes Reflux?
As we eat, food travels down our esophagus and enters the stomach. At the bottom of the esophagus is a muscle, referred to as the lower esophageal sphincter. This muscle opens for food to enter the stomach and then closes to allow digestion to take place. However, when the sphincter does not close properly or spontaneously opens, food and stomach acid can move back up into the esophagus, hence the name gastroesophageal reflux. Heartburn and related symptoms thus occur because the esophagus in turn become irritated.

Do I Have GERD?
If the reflux only occurs on occasion, it does not usually meet the criteria for a diagnosis of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD). Instead, an individual is usually classified as having GERD when the reflux occurs regularly, usually more than two times a week.

What Foods Worsen Reflux?

While everyone's body is unique, some common foods that aggravate reflux symptoms include citrus fruits, chocolate, garlic, onions, tomato-based foods, spicy foods, and fatty/fried foods.

How to Treat Heartburn
There are many treatment options available for individuals who experience reflux related symptoms. Popular "antacids" include Alka-Seltzer and Rolaids. There is also a class of drugs called "H2 blockers," with name brands like Pepcid AC, and Zantac 75. The most powerful class of drugs are known as "proton pump inhibitors," which include the drugs Prilosec, Aciphex, and Nexium. You should always consult with your physician about which treatment option is best for you.

For more information, visit http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/gerd/index.aspx.

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