An Introduction to Heartburn

By: pilkster
Heartburn is a term that virtually every person is familiar with. Whether you have heard it from a family member, a doctor or a commercial on television, heartburn is a common problem that receives a fair amount of attention. However, although everyone has heard of it, the majority of people are not actually aware of the full details of heartburn. There are quite a few facts about heartburn which are not publicized nearly as much as the ailment itself.

Ironically enough, the condition of heartburn does not actually involve the heart at all. The term was coined because of the fact that the main symptoms of heartburn occur around the breastbone. Additionally, the symptoms of heartburn resemble sensations caused by heart problems. In reality, heartburn occurs when the contents of the stomach (which are extremely acidic) are exposed to the lower esophagus. Under normal circumstances, a special sphincter prevents this from occurring. However, if the sphincter happens to relax, then there is a chance that the exposure will take place, which inevitably leads to heartburn.

The sensation of heartburn is not a pleasant one at all. Beginning slightly below the breastbone, heartburn is normally described as a painful, burning sensation. In many cases, the sensation rises through the chest and can even spread to areas such as the neck, throat or jaw. For many sufferers, heartburn can eventually lead to other problems, such as asthma or chronic cough.

So what causes heartburn? As discussed earlier, the process of heartburn actually occurs when the lower esophagus is exposed to the extremely acidic contents of the stomach. This event takes place when the sphincter which separates these two areas relaxes. However, most people want to know what actually triggers heartburn. Although heartburn can actually be caused by stress, in the majority of cases, it is set off by some type of food or beverage. It is important to understand that different people are effected by different substances. Obviously, two common culprits of heartburn are spicy foods and fatty foods. These two categories cover a wide spectrum of food, but these are the most common causes. However, they are not the only ones. Heartburn can also be caused by tomatoes, tomato sauce (such as that found on pizza), peanuts, peppermint of spearmint, chocolate and fruits or juices which are citrus based. As previously stated, food is not the only cause of heartburn. Beverages which are caffeinated or contain alcohol can also cause varying degrees of heartburn. Although there are many foods and beverages, these obviously do not affect every person. Actually, these foods don't even affect every heartburn sufferer. Each person's body reacts differently to various substances, and in some situations, this reaction will be heartburn.

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