Your stomach is filled with acid which helps to digest your food. The acidity of this stomach acid is said to be the same as battery acid, but your stomach is built to handle the acid that it produces. Your oesophagus on the other hand is not built to handle this acidity, and this is what causes the burning sensation known as heartburn or gastric acid reflux.

Heartburn involves the upper digestive system and not actually the heart itself.

What causes heartburn?

Heartburn is the result of the association between stomach acid, certain foods and/or a particular lifestyle. A small amount of acid is forced up through the LOS (Lower Oesophageal Sphincter) and this results in a burning sensation in the chest area. The LOS is a ring of smooth muscle at the joining point of the oesophagus and stomach which normally remains contracted, except when you swallow or eat, in order to prevent stomach acid from travelling up into the oesophagus.

Drinks containing caffeine, chocolate, fatty and fried foods, tomatoes or tomato-based products, citrus fruits and juices, and alcohol all allow the LOS to relax, which in turn allows stomach contents to move up into the oesophagus resulting in heartburn. The chemicals in tobacco and cigarette smoke also weaken the LOS as it passes from the lungs into the blood.

Eating large meals and having a full stomach can put pressure on the LOS which increases the chance that some food will reflux into the oesophagus. Lying down with a full stomach can also cause the stomach contents to push up through the LOS causing heartburn, so make sure not to eat a large meal before you go to bed. Also beware of wearing tight-fitting clothing around the abdomen (like a belt or slenderising underwear) because this squeezes the stomach, causing food to reflux into the oesophagus.

A hectic and stressful lifestyle can also aggravate heartburn as it often leads to behaviour that may trigger heartburn, such as smoking or alcohol consumption. If you are stressed, you are also be likely to be more aware of heartburn symptoms.

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This article is part of the Gelacid Heartburn Eduforum – Click here to view EduForum

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