Heartburn is an irritation of the oesophagus — the tube that connects your throat and stomach. It’s caused by stomach acid. This leads to a burning discomfort in your upper belly or below your breastbone.
Despite its name, heartburn has nothing to do with the heart.
But some of the symptoms are similar to those of a heart attack or heart disease: a burning sensation behind your sternum, or breastbone, in the middle of your chest.
You might also feel it in your throat. You may also feel pain in your chest when you bend over or lie down, or have a hot, acidic, bitter, or salty taste in the back of your throat.
Heartburn symptoms can start up because of a problem with a muscular valve called the lower oesophageal sphincter (LES). It’s located where the oesophagus meets the stomach — below the rib cage and slightly left of centre.
Normally, with the help of gravity, the LES keeps stomach acid right where it should be — in your stomach. When it’s working right, the LES opens to allow food into your stomach or to let you belch, then closes again. But if the LES opens too often or doesn’t close tightly enough, stomach acid can seep into the oesophagus and cause a burning sensation.
If your LES doesn’t tighten as it should, there are often two things that contribute to the problem. One is overeating, which puts too much food in your stomach. Another is too much pressure on your stomach, often due to obesity, pregnancy, or constipation.
Certain foods can relax your LES or increase stomach acid, including: Tomatoes; Citrus fruits; Garlic and onions; Chocolate; Coffee or caffeinated products; Alcohol; Peppermint.
Meals high in fats and oils (animal or vegetable) often lead to heartburn, as do certain medications. Stress and lack of sleep can raise how much acid your stomach makes and can cause heartburn.
Source: KK Publishers.