There are many causes of persistent heartburn, and it’s important to understand the different types.
In this article, we’ll take a look at the causes of persistent heartburn, the symptoms and what you can do about it.
1. Irritable bowel syndrome
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a condition characterized by chronic or intermittent abdominal pain and discomfort, bloating and gas, and changes in bowel habits. IBS can affect anyone, but it is more common in women.
The exact cause of IBS is unknown, and it can be associated with certain illnesses, such as colitis or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
The most common symptom of IBS is bloating (stomach pain). However, the pain can be in the upper abdomen, the middle or lower abdomen, or the back. Some people experience nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea as well.
IBS is also known as spastic bowel, and it can affect people of all ages.
2. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
GERD is a long-term condition that is characterized by certain symptoms, including heartburn.
When stomach acid travels up into the esophagus, it can cause a burning sensation in the chest, throat, or the back of the mouth. Sometimes it can also cause pain in the shoulder or neck.
Some of the most common symptoms of GERD include:
- Sour taste in the mouth
- Difficulty swallowing
- Sore throat
- Hoarse voice
- Sore, itchy, or red eyes
If you are experiencing heartburn, it’s important to consult your doctor as soon as possible. They may refer you to a gastroenterologist or a pain specialist for further assessment.
3. Gastrointestinal diseases
Certain gastrointestinal diseases can cause persistent heartburn, including:
- Crohn’s disease
- Ulcerative colitis
- Celiac disease
A doctor will assess your symptoms and ask about your medical history. They may perform a physical examination and order blood tests or an endoscopy.
If they suspect you may have a gastrointestinal disease, they can refer you to a gastroenterologist, a doctor specializing in the digestive system.
Anxiety is a mental health issue characterized by fear, worry, and apprehension.
It can affect anyone, but it is more common in women, especially during pregnancy and the postpartum period.
Some people with anxiety have persistent heartburn, but it is not common.
Symptoms of anxiety include:
- Feeling nervous, jumpy, or restless
- Trouble concentrating
- Difficulty sleeping
- Anxiety or restlessness
- Feeling anxious or irritable
- Feeling tense or jittery
- Feeling fearful
- Having thoughts of self-harm or suicide
- Avoiding situations that trigger anxiety
- Having thoughts of harming yourself
If you’re experiencing persistent heartburn, it’s important to talk to a doctor. They can refer you to a therapist or psychologist for further support.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a long-term condition that is characterized by stomach acid flowing back into the esophagus (backflow).
It can cause a burning sensation in the chest, throat, or the back of the mouth. It’s sometimes accompanied by difficulty swallowing, nausea, and vomiting.
GERD can occur at any time of the day or night, and it can also cause chronic coughs and chest pain.
If you experience GERD, it’s important to identify the problem and take steps to treat it as soon as possible.
6. Over-the-counter medications
Over-the-counter (OTC) medications can trigger heartburn in some people. This includes:
- Bismuth subsalicylate (Pepto-Bismol)
- Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs)
If you are taking these medications, it’s important to talk to your doctor about the potential heartburn side effects.
7. Certain foods
Certain foods and drinks can trigger heartburn. This includes:
- Carbonated drinks
- Alcoholic beverages
- Sugary foods
- Citrus fruits
- Tomato sauce
- Coffee and tea
- Salty foods, including pickles, olives, and smoked fish
If you are experiencing heartburn, it’s important to identify the cause. For example, it might be the result of a new food you’ve recently eaten, or of a food you’ve eaten a lot of in the past.
For example, alcohol might be the culprit for some people. This is particularly true if you feel as though you can’t swallow after you’ve had a drink.
For some people, chocolate might be the culprit.
8. Certain infections
There are several types of infections that can cause heartburn, including:
- Viral infections
- Bacterial infections
- Fungal infections
If the stomach acid backing up causes heartburn, it’s likely to occur with bacterial infections.
When stomach acid backs up and then backs up again, it can cause the condition known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). GERD is a chronic condition that requires treatment.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s important to talk to a doctor. They can refer you to a gastroenterologist.
9. Certain medications
Certain medications can cause heartburn and other symptoms. These include:
- Muscle relaxants
- Sleeping pills
- Blood pressure medications
If your heartburn is a result of these medications, or if you experience other symptoms as a result, you should talk to your doctor.
Certain medications can also cause heartburn. This includes:
- Glaucoma drugs
If you experience heartburn as a result of these medications, it’s important to talk to your doctor. They can refer you to a gastroenterologist for further assessment.
How to treat heartburn?
The most common way to treat heartburn is to avoid the foods and liquids that trigger it. This includes avoiding:
- Food and drinks that contain caffeine
Some people find that taking OTC medications, such as antacid, bismuth subsalicylate, and omeprazole, helps relieve symptoms.
For other people, taking a PPI, such as esomeprazole (Nexium), lansoprazole (Prevacid), or omeprazole (Prilosec), may help.
Your doctor can advise you on which medication might work best for you.
You should avoid taking any type of medication without speaking with your doctor first.
What is the outlook for people with heartburn?
Treating heartburn is important for preventing or slowing the progression of a number of diseases.
Heartburn can be a symptom of several different conditions. However, heartburn is a symptom of stomach acid backing up into the esophagus.
Heartburn is a common symptom of acid reflux and other stomach problems. It is often a result of a food or drink that triggers acid reflux.
If you begin to experience heartburn, it’s important to identify the cause. It’s also important to talk with your doctor about any changes in your symptoms.
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