Heartburn is a burning feeling in the chest caused by stomach acid travelling up towards the throat (acid reflux). More than 60 million American adults experience heartburn at least once a month, and more than 15 million adults suffer daily from heartburn. Many pregnant women experience daily heartburn. Recent studies show that GERD in infants and children is more common than previously recognized and may produce recurrent vomiting , coughing , and other respiratory problems. Summary: Carbonated beverages temporarily increase the frequency of belching, which may promote acid reflux. If they worsen your symptoms, try drinking less or avoiding them altogether.
Upper gastrointestinal endoscopy (also known as esophago-gastro-duodenoscopy or EGD ) is a common way of diagnosing GERD. EGD is a procedure in which a tube containing an optical system for visualization is swallowed. As the tube progresses down the gastrointestinal tract, the lining of the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum can be examined. GERD or acid reflux symptoms are caused by the regurgitation of acidic liquid stomach contents back up into the esophagus. The most common symptom of GERD is heartburn.
One novel approach to the treatment of GERD is chewing gum. Chewing gum stimulates the production of more bicarbonate-containing saliva and increases the rate of swallowing. After the saliva is swallowed, it neutralizes acid in the esophagus. In effect, chewing gum exaggerates one of the normal processes that neutralize acid in the esophagus. It is not clear, however, how effective chewing gum is in treating heartburn. Nevertheless, chewing gum after meals is certainly worth a try. In one study, researchers gave participants with GERD prebiotic fiber supplements that promoted the growth of gas-producing bacteria. The participants’ reflux symptoms worsened as a result ( 20 ).
The same basic strategies to ease reflux can help scleroderma patients as well: Avoid trigger foods and alcohol, don’t lie down after eating, eat smaller meals, and lose weight if you need to. Over-the-counter antacids may also help, but talk to your doctor before using go now them. Unsurprisingly, most reflux symptoms take place after a meal. It also seems that larger meals may worsen reflux symptoms ( 5 , 6 ). Nevertheless, although several studies suggest that coffee may worsen acid reflux, the evidence is not entirely conclusive.
The burning, pressure, or pain of heartburn can last as long as 2 hours and is often worse after eating. Lying down or bending over can also result in heartburn. Many people obtain relief by standing upright or by taking an antacid that clears acid out of the esophagus. It aggravates symptoms by increasing stomach acid, relaxing the lower esophageal sphincter and impairing the ability of the esophagus to clear itself of acid ( 21 , 22 ). One study showed that patients who raised the head of their bed had significantly fewer reflux episodes and symptoms, compared to those who slept without any elevation ( 49 ).