Heartburn actually takes place along the digestive tract—the stretch from the stomach climbing up to the throat. What is actually causing the burning sensation is gastric acid that escapes or refluxes from the stomach into the esophagus. This happens when the sphincter or “gate valve” between the stomach and esophagus, which opens and closes during food digestion, fails to close completely. The refluxed stomach acid can irritate the thin or sensitive esophageal lining, causing what is loosely described as “heartburn.” The more accurate term is gastric or acid reflux. It is also sometimes referred to as acid indigestion.
Here are some factors that may aggravate heartburn:
● Overeating. Downing too much food at an accelerated rate may not give the stomach enough time to digest the food and move it down to the intestines, causing the stomach to bloat or overflow and push the food (and acid) up and against the cardiac sphincter.
● Lying down immediately after eating. Although stomach muscles contract and function to move digested food down the alimentary tract, it seems logical that the mere act of lying down, especially with a weakened valve, won’t help as this obviously defies the law of gravity.
● Certain food and beverages. Some food items either loosen the cardiac sphincter or increase the production of gastric acid that may flow back into an already loose sphincter.These include coffee and tea, carbonated beverages, citrus juices, vinegar, and alcohol.
● Certain drugs. Blood thinners like aspirin, pain killers like ibuprofen, as well as sedatives and medication for hypertension and asthma irritate the esophageal lining or loosen the sphincter and thus aggravate heartburn. Cigarette smoking does this as well.
● Stress. Any condition that causes strain to the mind and body, such as taking examinations, performing on stage, competing, or having arguments or relationship problems can increase the production of acid in the stomach and contribute to the worsening of acid reflux.
Burn, Baby, Burn?