Heartburn is a painful burning sensation in the chest region caused by the dysfunction of a specialized valve (cardiac sphincter) between the esophagus and the stomach. The Cardiac Sphincter is responsible for preventing the back flow of stomach contents and acid back into the esophagus. When this valve is not functioning properly a patient will likely present with dull, achy, burning sensation that is felt deep in the chest region, especially after/during meals.

Heartburn is a relatively common symptom that can be managed in a variety of ways. Some choose to use over-the-counter (OTC) medicines to inhibit the production of stomach acid. Others choose to manage their symptoms by avoiding foods that tend to trigger the symptoms and changing behaviors that may potentially contribute to your heartburn symptoms.

Common food triggers include spicy food, fried food, caffeine, chocolate, carbonated beverages, alcohol, and acidic foods such as citrus fruits.

Behavior modification can help reduce or even prevent heartburn. Drinking cold beverages while eating food may slow the digestive system. It may be prudent to drink room temperature or warm drinks with food in order to promote proper digestion. Eating smaller portions of food and chewing food thoroughly will help reduce the work for the stomach. Avoid laying down within 2-3 hours of eating. Gravity will help reduce the chances of food regurgitation.

If heartburn is suspected it could be valuable to keep a food journal and document frequency of indigestion events. This may make it possible to correlate food triggers and behaviors that you can avoid in the future.

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