Occasional heartburn happens to many people, but if it becomes an everyday occurrence it may indicate an underlying health disorder or unhealthy dietary habits. Heartburn results from stomach acid backup that gets into the esophagus and throat, causing a burning sensation in the chest or bitter taste in the back of the throat. People who have chronic heartburn should consult a doctor to find out what may be causing it.
Acid Reflux Disease
People with frequent acid reflux and heartburn problems may have gastroesophageal reflux disease. The disease stems from a weakened muscle valve in the esophagus, known as the lower esophageal sphincter, according to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse. The valve opens when food or liquids enter the stomach and then normally closes to prevent stomach acid backup. Gastroesophageal reflux disease results from a permanently damaged lower esophageal sphincter, which does not close tightly enough to prevent acid reflux and subsequently causes chronic heartburn. Over-the-counter or prescription medication can treat the condition in many cases. In some cases, doctors may recommend surgery to strengthen the sphincter. Surgical techniques include wrapping the upper part of the stomach around the lower esophagus or tightening methods that reinforce the esophageal valve.
Serious underlying causes of frequent heartburn may include gastritis, an inflammation of the stomach lining, says FamilyDoctor.org. Chronic heartburn may also be the result of a peptic ulcer, an erosion of the lining in the digestive tract. This is caused by excessive secretion of stomach acid. Heartburn may occur often in people with a hiatal hernia, which causes the upper part of the stomach to push upward into the chest, MedlinePlus explains. The condition weakens the lower esophageal sphincter, allowing stomach acid to reflux into the esophagus frequently. Obesity and smoking are among the risk factors involved with hiatal hernia.
Overeating, eating too fast, obesity and being overweight may cause frequent heartburn. People who find they experience heartburn every day may need to change how they eat and what they eat. Food should be eaten slowly, carefully and completely. Eating smaller meals can help prevent heartburn, points out MedlinePlus. Fatty or spicy foods, citrus fruits, tomato-based products, chocolate and onions are among the foods that can cause too much heartburn. Too much caffeine, carbonated drinks or alcohol may also trigger frequent heartburn. Eating during stressful periods leads to frequent heartburn too.