What is it?
- Heartburn is a burning sensation in your chest, just behind your breastbone. Heartburn pain is often worse when lying down or bending over.
- Occasional heartburn is common and no cause for alarm. Most people can manage the discomfort of heartburn on their own with lifestyle changes and over-the-counter medications.
- More frequent heartburn that interferes with your daily routine may be a symptom of something more serious that requires help from a doctor.
Symptoms of heartburn include:
- A burning pain in the chest that usually occurs after eating and may occur at night
- Pain that worsens when lying down or bending over
Heartburn occurs when stomach acid backs up into your esophagus.
Normally when you swallow, your lower esophageal sphincter — a circular band of muscle around the bottom part of your esophagus — relaxes to allow food and liquid to flow down into your stomach. Then it closes again.
However, if the lower esophageal sphincter relaxes abnormally or weakens, stomach acid can flow back up into your esophagus, causing heartburn. The acid backup is worse when you're bent over or lying down.
Certain foods and drinks can trigger heartburn in some people, including:
- Black pepper
- Fatty food
- Fried food
- Orange juice
- Soft drinks
- Tomato sauce
Heartburn that occurs frequently and interferes with your routine is considered gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD). GORD treatment may require prescription medications and, occasionally, surgery or other procedures. GORD can also cause serious complications.
See your doctor if your heartburn becomes more frequent or no longer responds to over-the-counter medications. Your doctor can determine if your heartburn is likely to be a symptom of GORD.