What is Heartburn?

Heartburn occurs when you suffer an irritation of the upper part of the stomach where it meets the esophagus (food tube). The esophagus, a muscular tube, moves food from the back of your mouth to the stomach. At its lower end, the muscle is thicker and very strong, opening to allow food to pass through, then closing tightly to keep the corrosive digestive acid found in the stomach from getting up into the esophagus where the lining is too delicate to withstand it. If something—gas forming in the stomach or a spasm of the esophageal sphincter muscle—keeps the sphincter open, the acid contents of your stomach will be able to back up—or reflux—into the esophagus and bum the lining. We call that feeling heartburn, but we ought more correctly to call it "esophagus burn." The burned lining becomes inflamed, a condition called esophagitis.
Heartburn Sometimes the irritation is extreme enough to cause the strong muscle wall of the esophagus to spasm over its entire length—an esophageal spasm—and the pain of that spasm takes more people to the hospital emergency room fearing they're having a heart attack than any other false alarm. If the stomach acid bath continues, the lining of the esophagus can erode and ulcerate.

When under stress you produce too much stomach acid, or if you take medications such as ibuprofen, aspirin, or prescription antiinflammatory or arthritis drugs, you can even burn the tough lining of the stomach. This generalized stomach inflammation is called gastritis. If the burn becomes extreme, and the lining of the stomach breaks down in spots, you develop stomach ulcers.

Over-the-counter antacid preparations, such as Maalox, Mylanta, Rolaids, Pepto-Bismol, Turns, and a host of others, help to neutralize the stomach acid and reduce the production of stomach gas. A number of prescription medications have come onto the market to control the acid production (Tagamet, Zantac, Pepcid, Axid) and to coat and heal the raw lining (Carafate, Prilosec), but nutrition plays an important role in stopping the symptoms of heartburn. Let's see how in Heartburn diet.

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