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How to Treat Heartburn?

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How to Treat Heartburn?

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The burning sensation in the chest due to acid regurgitating into the esophagus is called heartburn. Learn the causes, treatment, and prevention of heartburn.

Medically reviewed by

iCliniq medical review team

Published At November 18, 2016
Reviewed AtAugust 10, 2023

Usually at night, we may feel a sour liquid in our throat coming from beneath or burning sensation in our upper tummy. The pain goes up through our chest to the throat. Sometimes we fear it as a heart attack. This is called heartburn or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) in medical terms.

How Does Heart Burn Occur?

The food we eat starts getting digested right from the mouth up to the large bowel. Food passes through the mouth to the throat and then food pipe, stomach, small and large bowels, rectum and at last excreted as feces. Every part of the digestive system plays its role in digesting food. Stomach is unique from other parts as it has acid in it. Yes, stomach produces hydrochloric acid (HCl). This helps in digestion and also kills germs that may be present in unhygienic food.

The hydrochloric acid is present only in the stomach. A functional valve at the lower end of the food pipe called the lower esophageal sphincter preventes the reflux of acid back into the food pipe. It remains closed most of the time and opens for a short time while we swallow food or liquid and then closes again. Sometimes, it opens for short times even without food, to eliminate the air that is swallowed or gas that is produced by some chemical reactions in the stomach. These transient openings are for very short periods. In some individuals, the openings of this valve are recurrent or for longer duration. In that case acid may come back into the lower part of the food pipe and cause burning of walls of the pipe. This causes pain or burning sensation and it is due to acid reflux.

What Are the Risk Factors of Acid Reflux?

Some common risk factors of acid reflux are as follows:

  1. Obesity.
  2. Binge eating.
  3. Lying down just after eating.
  4. Taking lot of coffee, tea and citrus juices.
  5. Taking some medicines that contain acid such as Aspirin and medicines that loosen this valve, for example nitrates.
  6. Tight fitting clothes.
  7. With some medical conditions such as hernia, in which a part of our stomach is pulled upwards into the chest.

Heartburn is very common. Most of us experience it three to four times per month. Unless you do not have danger symptoms, this condition is of no concern. Danger symptoms or red flags are weight loss, persistent vomiting, blood vomiting, black colored feces and difficulty in swallowing. If you experience these danger symptoms, then go straight to your doctor without delay.

What Are the Investigations Carried Out?

Usually no investigations are required, but sometimes when the diagnosis cannot be made, few investigations are done to check acid reflux.

1. Esophageal Manometry:

In this, a probe is inserted into food pipe’s lower end, which measures its pressure. If it is decreased, then it causes acid to reflux back.

2. Monitoring Ph:

In this also, a pH probe is inserted into the food pipe through mouth to measure pH of the food pipe continuously for 24 to 48 hours. If it is less than 4, then it gives clue to acid reflux. Normal pH is around 6. This test is also called Bravo test.

3. Endoscopy:

In this test a flexible probe is passed through the mouth to the stomach, which has a camera to view inside the food pipe and stomach. It is also used to remove a small piece of tissue from there to test, which is known as biopsy.

4. Acid Suppressing Medicines:

Sometimes a medicine that suppresses acid production is given and if there is symptomatic improvement, then the treatment will be continued.

What Are the Treatments for Heart Burn?

  • Antacids: As we know acid is neutralized by alkali, an alkaline medicine is given. Usually Sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) and Magnesium bicarbonate is used to neutralize the acidic environment. It gives relief in a very short time.
  • Surgery: Rarely, surgery is needed, especially in case of hernia.

What Are the Complications of Heartburn?

  • Usually there are no complications of acid reflux, but rarely may arise. There may be stricture formation in which the lower end of food pipe is narrowed or blocked thus causing pain and difficulty following swallowing especially solid foods.
  • If acid reflux remains for a long time, there appears some changes at the microscopic level in our food pipe that sometimes are precancerous and later may lead to cancer. Do not worry as the chance of it is very less.
  • An ulcer may develop in food pipe due to longstanding damage from acid.
  • Sometimes, the acid along with liquid we had drunk short time ago refluxes up to the throat and mouth. It may cause decay of tooth enamel and if this sour fluid goes into the windpipe (trachea), especially if reflux occurs during sleep can cause pneumonia that is inflammation of the lungs.

How Heart Burn Can Be Prevented?

If you suffer from recurrent heartburn, then the following steps may be taken to decrease or prevent further episodes.

  1. Do not eat full stomach. Avoid fatty foods, excessive coffee, tea or other caffeinated beverages.
  2. Stop smoking and drinking. Do not wear tight clothes.
  3. Don't go to sleep just after having meal. Go to bed about 2 hours after meal. Keep the head end of your bed about 6 to 8 inches above the foot end, so that acid may gravitate down.
  4. Do not have acidic foods such as lemon, orange and tomatoes. Avoid acidic medicines such as Aspirin or medicines that cause more reflux such as nitrates, with your doctor's advice.
  5. Do not take stress as it causes more acid production and more acidity.


Understanding the causes, treatment, and prevention of heartburn is crucial for maintaining optimal digestive health. Heartburn, often triggered by lifestyle factors like diet, stress, and obesity, can be effectively managed through a combination of dietary adjustments, medication, and lifestyle changes. Incorporating a balanced diet, practicing portion control, and avoiding trigger foods can significantly reduce the frequency and intensity of heartburn episodes.

Are you suffering from heartburn? Consult a heartburn specialist online --> https://www.icliniq.com/ask-a-doctor-online/medical-gastroenterologist/heartburn

Frequently Asked Questions


Does Stress Cause Heartburn?

Lack of sleep and high stress can increase the stomach's acid levels, thus leading to heartburn symptoms. For pregnant women, progesterone might relax the muscles of the esophagus and lead to heartburn. In addition to these conditions, smoking can also increase stomach acid levels, thereby causing heartburn.


Does Drinking Water Help Heartburn?

Drinking water will aid in the process of digestion. It will also help in the hydration of the body. Frequent consumption of water can relieve the symptoms caused by gastroesophageal reflux disease. You can also try drinking ginger tea for heartburn.


What Foods Give You Heartburn?

- Drinks and foods that commonly boost heartburn are:
- Alcohol. Red wine triggers heartburn when compared to other alcoholic drinks.
- Tomatoes.
- Garlic, raw onions, black pepper, and other spicy foods.
- Citrus fruits and products like oranges, orange juice, and lemons.
- Chocolate.
- Peppermint.
- Coffee and caffeinated drinks like soda and tea.


How Do You Stop Heartburn?

You can follow the below tips to overcome heartburn.
- Stand up straight when you have heartburn. Laying down will increase the intensity of the condition.
- Wear loose clothing.
- Drinking a mixture of baking soda with water.
- Chewing gums can help in diluting the acid.
- Keeping your upper body in an elevated position.
- Consumption of licorice supplements.
- Eat ginger.
- Drinking apple cider vinegar.


What Can I Drink to Relieve heartburn?

The following drinks can help in relieving heartburn.
- Plant-based milk.
- Low-fat milk.
- Smoothies.
- Fruit juice.
- Coconut water.
- Water.


Why Am I Suddenly Getting Heartburn?

Sudden heartburn might be a sign of the following conditions.
- Hiatus hernia.
- Acid reflux.
- Stomach ulcer.
- Gastrointestinal disease.
In addition to these conditions, sudden heartburn can occur due to overeating, alcohol, tight clothing, and spicy food.


Is Milk Good for Heartburn?

Milk might not be a good option for heartburn in some patients. Some medical researchers suggest that milk can relieve heartburn, but milk is known to stimulate the production of acids in the stomach in practical cases. So, milk is not a recommended option for all types of patients. You should get recommendations from the doctor before consumption of milk.


How Do You Sleep With Heartburn?

While sleeping with heartburn, make sure you keep your body elevated. You can sleep on a wedge-shaped pillow. It has to have a minimum thickness of 6 to 10 inches at one end. You can also sleep on your left side to relieve the symptoms of heartburn.


When Should I Be Worried About Heartburn?

All cases of heartburn are not serious conditions. Sometimes, it can happen due to excessive vomiting in pregnancy. In such cases, the patient need not worry about heartburn. But, if the heartburn occurs more than two times a week, it is necessary to immediately consult a doctor. If the patient has gastroesophageal reflux disease, then they might experience heartburn a minimum of three times a week. In such conditions also it is necessary to consult a doctor.


Are Bananas Good for Heartburn?

Banana is a fruit that contains low levels of acid. The high fiber content in bananas can boost the process of digestion. Many indigestion problems can be overcome by eating bananas. So, bananas are really good for heartburn. All the fruits that are having low acid content can be consumed for heartburn.


What Is the Fastest Acting Heartburn Medicine?

The following medications can relieve the symptoms of heartburn,
- Famotidine.
- Ranitidine.
- Dexlansoprazole
- Pantoprazole sodium


When Does Heartburn Occur All Day?

Heartburn occurs when the lower part of the esophagus relaxes at the wrong time. This will result in the backflow of the acid into the esophagus. This will cause heartburn throughout the day. The patient will feel severe discomfort and difficulty in eating.


How Can You Tell the Difference Between Heartburn and Chest Pain?

Chest pain can happen anytime due to the underlying condition. But, heartburn can happen only after the meals because it is mostly a gastrointestinal problem. The symptoms of chest pain are usually seen, along with other symptoms like breathlessness. This does not happen in the case of heartburn.


How Long Can a Heartburn Attack Last?

The symptoms of heartburn can last for two or more hours. In case the heartburn is very mild due to the consumption of spicy foods, then the heartburn will stop after the consumed foods have been digested. There are possibilities for the heartburn to reoccur if the person lies down immediately after eating.


How Does Severe Heartburn Feel Like?

Severe heartburn causes pain and discomfort for the patients. The digestive acids that move through the digestive tract can cause uneasiness in an individual. Typical heartburn will start in the upper part of the abdomen and gradually move to the chest. You should consult your doctor if you are facing severe symptoms of heartburn, consult your doctor immediately.
Dr. Muhammad Zohaib Siddiq
Dr. Muhammad Zohaib Siddiq



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