Almost everyone experiences heartburn at one time or another. Around 60 million Americans deal with heartburn at least once a month. And more than 15 million Americans experience heartburn daily.
Heartburn often feels like a burning chest pain beneath the sternum. This occurs due to the abnormal reflux of stomach contents into the esophagus. Frequent acid reflux and heartburn can lead to health problems.
People who experience heartburn more than two times per week have a chronic medical condition known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). According to the American College of Gastroenterology, GERD affects around 20% of Americans.
This article will highlight when you should see your doctor for heartburn and the symptoms you should look out for. We’ll also discuss the diagnosis and treatment of heartburn, including natural treatment options. Keep reading to learn how you can manage heartburn.
When to Call Your Doctor About Heartburn
Heartburn has a range of extremes. Some people may only feel an occasional burning sensation in the lower chest. Whereas others may experience medical emergencies.
Generally, if you have symptoms of heartburn that occur occasionally and go away quickly, you rarely need to visit a doctor. Lifestyle and diet modifications can often improve infrequent heartburn symptoms.
You should visit your doctor if you have frequent episodes of heartburn, such as heartburn that occurs more than twice a week. You should also see a board-certified gastroenterologist if you’ve had heartburn for a long time or had persistent heartburn that went away. This could be a sign of a medical condition known as Barrett’s esophagus.
The most common symptoms of heartburn are chest burning and regurgitation. But it can also cause other symptoms that warrant seeing a doctor, such as:
- Stomach or chest pain
- A raspy voice or sore throat
- Unexplained cough
- Nausea or vomiting
- Worsening asthma
If you have any of the following symptoms, you should make an appointment with a gastroenterologist as soon as possible:
- Trouble swallowing or a feeling that food gets stuck on the way down
- Choking when you eat
- Losing weight without trying
- Vomiting blood or passing black stools
Diagnosis and Treatment of Heartburn
Heartburn is often diagnosed based on your symptoms and medical history. In more severe cases, your doctor may perform testing to confirm a diagnosis of GERD. The following tests can check for damage in the esophagus or stomach:
- Upper endoscopy: During this procedure, your doctor inserts a scope down your throat to examine the esophagus and stomach. This test can biopsy tissues to check for abnormalities and diagnose the severity of the disease.
- Barium x-ray: This x-ray test allows your doctor to visualize the back of your throat, esophagus, and stomach. Before the test, you drink a chalky substance called barium. Barium absorbs x-rays, which highlight your internal organs. This helps detect structural or functional problems with swallowing.
- PH monitoring: This test monitors acid reflux by inserting a tiny, wireless capsule into the esophagus. The capsule sends information to a monitor that tracks your sleep, diet, and symptoms. PH monitoring is the most accurate way to detect stomach acid in the esophagus.
Treatment for heartburn generally starts with diet and lifestyle changes. But if your symptoms persist, your doctor may recommend medications or surgery.
Natural Treatments for Heartburn
Treatment for heartburn is often successful with non-invasive, natural treatment options. Many people can reduce or eliminate their heartburn symptoms with diet and lifestyle changes. Keep reading to discover natural treatments for heartburn that you can try today.
Avoid Trigger Foods
Acidic and fatty foods can cause heartburn because they relax the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). If the LES doesn’t close tightly like it’s supposed to, the stomach contents can move upward into the esophagus. This can irritate the esophagus and cause heartburn. Fatty foods also cause the stomach to produce more acid, which can increase your risk of acid reflux.
Avoiding common trigger foods for heartburn can