Heartburn after eating

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Our digestive system begins with the mouth, where we chew food, processing it with saliva. Then it enters the esophagus in portions – a hollow tubular organ that connects to the upper part of the stomach. The walls of the esophagus are muscular, this is necessary so that food is rhythmically pushed down, from the inside it is covered with a mucous membrane, a layer of cells that protect against irritants. There is a sphincter between the esophagus and the stomach, this is a section of circular muscles that relax in a timely manner when food passes from the esophagus and must be closed when the stomach digests food, processing it with hydrochloric acid and pepsin (the main components of gastric juice). If the tone of the lower esophageal sphincter is disturbed (reduced) or the stomach stretches too much, the opening opens slightly, and the contents, along with the acid, are thrown back into the esophagus – this is called reflux. The mucous membrane of the esophagus, in contrast to the stomach, is not protected from the effects of acid, and when casting, we feel heartburn. If heartburn occurs frequently, the esophagus is damaged, inflamed, and GERD occurs, which means gastroesophageal reflux disease.

What is heartburn?
In fact, this is a symptom that occurs when the sphincter opens and acidic contents are thrown into the esophagus. This is one of the most striking manifestations of GERD, signaling irritation and inflammation of the esophagus. Occasional heartburn associated with overeating or eating acidic foods is not dangerous. But if reflux becomes almost daily, this is an alarming symptom. Most often, the problem occurs after eating, when the stomach begins to actively produce acid and pepsin to process the food that has been received.

Heartburn symptoms
Heartburn is described as a painful subjective sensation accompanied by burning, pain, and discomfort behind the breastbone, spasm, pressure, nausea, and heaviness in the abdomen. In GERD, heartburn is one of many other symptoms. The pain can be localized in the epigastric region, in the throat, and may be accompanied by sour belching and an unpleasant taste in the mouth. Sometimes reflux that occurs at night provokes pain in the throat and cough.

Heartburn after eating worsens, especially when lying down or bending over, maybe temporarily relieved by eating or drinking.

Causes of heartburn after eating
The main cause of heartburn, as we have already found out, is the ingress of hydrochloric acid from the stomach back into the esophagus due to the fact that the sphincter is not completely closed. Numerous factors can act as provocateurs of heartburn:

  • foods, medicines, and various conditions that increase the production of hydrochloric acid in the stomach;
  • damage or insufficiency of muscles in the sphincter area, due to which it does not completely close;
  • a change in the position of the esophagus and stomach, contributing to the throwing of contents in the opposite direction.

Coffee and alcohol, spicy, acidic foods, spices, carbonated drinks, chocolate are considered irritants and stimulants of acid secretion. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and some pain relievers are also dangerous.
The tone of the sphincter is negatively affected by fatty foods, overeating, and smoking.

During pregnancy, the presence of a hernia in the diaphragm, obesity, especially if fat accumulates in the abdominal cavity, the stomach rises higher, taking a more horizontal position. Then it is easier for the acid to flow back into the esophagus.

In some situations, persistent heartburn is a sign of gastritis with high acidity, peptic ulcer disease, tumors, and systemic diseases.

Treatment of heartburn after meals
In addition to discomfort, heartburn and GERD are serious complications. These are inflammatory lesions of the esophagus that can lead to ulcers and bleeding, scarring, and narrowing of the sphincter, which can lead to problems with eating. In addition, frequent contact with acid leads to a change in the epithelium of the esophagus – the formation of a precancerous “Barrett’s esophagus”, and without treatment – even cancer.

Also, severe heartburn can simulate a heart attack, and the patient may even go to the hospital. Therefore, it is important to find out the causes of heartburn as soon as possible and start treatment.

The doctor will certainly take into account all complaints, in addition to heartburn, and even ask you to keep a diary in order to assess what factors provoke deterioration. Additionally, you will need an X-ray of the esophagus and stomach with contrast, endoscopy (EFGDS) to visually assess the walls of the esophagus and stomach, as well as a number of tests. In order to assess the work of the sphincter, manometry is carried out with a pH meter of the esophagus – muscle tone and acidity in the lumen of the organ are measured.

Modern methods of treatment
Of course, lifestyle changes play a significant role in treatment. It is important to reconsider food, removing irritating foods from it, and also not to pass, eat food often, in small portions. It is important to give up food 2-3 hours before bedtime. You need to try to give up alcohol, smoking and take medications strictly as directed by your doctor, even if these are common painkillers. After eating, you should not immediately lie down or bend over, you should be more physically active so that the food leaves the stomach as soon as possible.

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