Heartburn refers to irritation of the oesophagus from the acid in the stomach. Though it is called heartburn, this condition does not have anything to do with heart.
Heartburn results from the stomach acid moving backwards into the oesophagus, leading to burning of the lining of the oesophagus and therefore causing burning sensation at the upper central part of the abdomen. This acid burns the lining of the oesophagus because it lacks the protective layer against the acid which is present in the stomach.
Normally, the stomach is demarcated from the oesophagus by lower oesophageal sphincter, which is a smooth muscle ring between the stomach and the oesophagus. It opens to allow food enter the stomach and closes thereafter, preventing the content of the stomach from entering the oesophagus.
There are two mechanisms for heartburn to occur: malfunctioning of the lower oesophageal sphincter and excessive production of stomach acid (gastric acid).
1. Factors that affect the functions of lower oesophageal sphincter:
These factors put pressure on the lower oesophageal sphincter and prevents it from closing properly, thus allowing gastric acid to flow back into the oesophagus and cause the symptoms of heartburn.
2. Factors that increase acid production in the stomach
Certain food items have been associated with increased gastric acid production. These include:
The following are what you will likely feel when you have heartburn
The treatment for heartburn is aimed at either neutralising the already produced acid or reducing the production of gastric acid. Both may be necessary.