Who among us could refuse a late night snack of pepperoni pizza, crowned with a glass of beer or two?  What about that morning late, which makes the nighttime blues just disappear? Let’s not forget the midday lunch, a spicy Thai curry, which was crammed down in a matter of minutes, due to an after lunch appointment. What do these things have in common? They all can wreak havoc on our stomachs, causing that all too familiar heartburn.

Heartburn is often caused by acid in the stomach, which manages to get by the dam or the esophageal sphincter.  From there the acid moves upward to provide us with an intense, burning sensation from our stomach all the way to our mouth.  This condition is called GERD or gastroesophageal reflux disease. It results from certain products or food especially the following: obviously spicy delights which at the time of ingestion may have seemed like a good idea, but later produce excess stomach acid.  Caffeine reduces the strength of that esophageal sphincter, which allows more of the stomach contents to move backwards rather than continue onwards toward the small bowel, where the acid is neutralized as the food is digested. Carbonated beverages of any sort also work in a similar fashion. Aspirin, ibuprofen, naprosyn and a host of other antiinflammatory agents inhibit the ability of the stomach wall to protect itself, causing inflammation and acid leakage. Eating food rapidly will cause the stomach to distend, increasing the pressure on that sphincter.  If you lie down right after eating, gravity, which had you remained upright for another 30 minutes or so would have been your friend, now works along with that nasty stomach acid to propel the acid upwards. Alcohol causes stomach inflammation  and reduces the sphincter pressure.

Other conditions which have nothing to do with stomach acid and are quite a bit more dangerous can also cause heartburn.  A heart attack, especially if it involves the lower part of your heart, may cause only heartburn and nothing else. Gallstones, wedged in the gallbladder can easily mimic GERD as can pancreatitis.  Even stomach or esophageal cancer can present in a similar fashion.

Bottom line: If you think you have heartburn and are at risk for having a heart attack, gallstones or pancreas problems you should go to the emergency room right away.  Antacids will not help that heart attack! Jenny praised an opportunity to buy good essay from a wonderful custom paper writing community.

Next week I will discuss how to treat GERD.