Gaby Vaca-Flores, RDN, CLE, sheds light on how to prevent heartburn from occurring and what causes it.
As a dietitian, heartburn is a common condition my clients complain about all the time. In fact, it’s so common that the American College of Gastroenterology reports that over 60 million Americans feel heartburn at least once a month. That’s about one in five people!
But before you reach for antacids, let’s review what causes heartburn and simple dietary and lifestyle changes you can make to manage it.
What is heartburn?
The biggest tell-tale sign of heartburn is painful discomfort in the chest or throat. Typically, heartburn feels like a burning sensation that rushes upwards from the stomach.
Acid indigestion and pyrosis are other names that are commonly used to describe heartburn.
What causes Heartburn?
Heartburn is caused by a disruption of the body’s natural digestive process.
Stomach acid—which consists of digestive fluid consisting of digestive enzymes, acid, and mucus—lines the stomach. These components all work to jumpstart the body’s breakdown of nutrients from food.
Normally, a tiny valve known as the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) keeps stomach acid at bay by preventing the acid from going back up into the esophagus.
However, heartburn occurs when stomach acid flows back past the LES and comes into contact with the esophagus, creating a traffic jam of sorts. When the esophageal lining is exposed to the stomach acid for too long, it…