The Heartache of Heartburn

By: Janet Martin

Do you have a burning pain in your chest, neck, or throat immediately after overeating? Does this happen after you consume too much fried, fatty or spicy foods? Does drinking coffee, soda or alcohol make you uncomfortable? Is the pain so severe that you feel you're having a heart attack?

If you answered "yes" to the above questions, chances are you have heartburn - one of the most common yet misunderstood ailments that affects about 50 million people in the United States alone. No, your heart isn't on fire but your esophagus is. Heartburn happens when super strong stomach acids are released back to the esophagus, the food tube that carries what you swallow down to your stomach. It is a common symptom of hyperacidity or the overproduction of stomach acids.

These acids normally belong in the stomach and are meant to stay there. A muscle called the esophageal sphincter prevents them from slipping back up the esophagus. When this muscle relaxes, you're in trouble. The stomach juices and acids literally burn your esophagus, leading to unpleasant symptoms that occur after overeating or heavy drinking and can last as long as two hours. Untreated, this can lead to more serious health problems such as bleeding ulcers, cancer, scar tissue that constricts the throat, and damage to teeth, ears or lungs.

Aside from overeating, other factors that contribute to hyperacidity and heartburn are pregnancy, lack of exercise, smoking, obesity, eating too fast, swallowing air while eating, and going to bed immediately after eating. Certain drugs such as aspirin, sedatives, tetracycline, asthma medications, calcium-channel blockers, and vitamin C may also be the culprits. One of the biggest contributors to hyperacidity and heartburn is stress. Stress increases stomach acid secretion and can cause the esophageal sphincter to malfunction. So if you've been working too hard and burning the midnight candle lately, it's time to relax and take it easy.

While antacids can help ease the burning sensation, they only neutralize stomach acid and provide temporary relief. Furthermore, they may cause certain side effects like diarrhea or constipation. Some products have a high sodium content that's a no-no for people with hypertension, heart disease, diabetes or a history of stroke. Others contain large amounts of calcium and shouldn't be used if you suffer from kidney disease. So before you take anything, it's best to consult your doctor, especially if symptoms persist.

To avoid heartburn, don't eat large meals, especially fatty and spicy foods. To help you lose weight safely and naturally, take Phenocal - a powerful supplement that will boost your metabolism, suppress your appetite, increase energy levels, and help you shed those unwanted pounds. For more information, visit http://www.phenocal.com.

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