Heartburn is caused by indigestion which results in stomach acid rising up the esophagus. This produces discomfort, pain and burning in the chest or upper stomach region. In some cases, these symptoms are present all the way up into the throat and can be so extreme that it can be mistaken as a heart attack.
The condition can be either acute or chronic. Chronic or constant and consistent heartburn may be the result of another health condition such as the valve at the top of esophagus failing to close. Pregnant women often suffer from chronic heartburn due to the pressure of the baby on the stomach and other organs resulting in acid reflux. In most chronic cases, it is necessary to treat the cause rather than the symptoms.
Acute heartburn, where the symptoms are experienced every now and again can be treated in a number of different ways. The most common treatment is symptomatic and designed to neutralize the stomach acid or prevent it from rising into the esophageal tract. Antacids are commonly used to treat the condition and are normally a very effective solution for a short period of time.
A change in diet may be recommended for those who suffer from acute heartburn on a regular basis. Avoiding acid producing foods and eating more alkaline foods is advisable. Alkaline foods include fruit and vegetables while acid foods are meats and dairy. Drinking a glass of milk may make the painful sensations abate for a while but will in effect exacerbate the condition in the long run.
Acid producing foods require the body to produce more acid in order for them to be digested. Alkaline foods, on the other hand, provide acid and therefore aid in digestion reducing the need to produce more stomach acid. Heartburn is often caused by too much acid in the stomach.
Drinking large amounts of water can also help reduce the cause and symptoms of heartburn and acid reflux. It is recommended to drink at least 8 glasses of water a day. Water, like antacids, neutralizes stomach acid. However, too much water in one go will drive the stomach acid up the esophagus in a diluted form which can still be rather painful.
It is recommended to consult a medical practitioner if heartburn occurs regularly or lasts for extended periods of time to detect any underlying causes and to provide a comprehensive treatment plan.