Holiday overeating comes with the season and indigestion can flare up.
Nearly everyone has heartburn — that burning feeling right near the middle of the chest — once in a while. It has many causes, including too much fatty or spicy food, alcohol, caffeine, and smoking.
Gut check on symptoms
Occasional heartburn is one thing, chronic heartburn another, but the symptoms can get more confusing with heart attacks that can mimic indigestion.
“Sometimes the feelings we typically associate with eating too much food are symptoms of more serious conditions,” says Dr. Sreenivas Chintalapani, M.D., a fellowship trained gastroenterologist at the Gastroenterology Clinic of the Quad Cities. “We’ve seen patients who were popping Tums all day not realizing they were having a heart attack.”
It’s often hard to tell if chest pain is simply heartburn or something more serious. Here’s your gut check: if heartburn
is accompanied by a sour taste and comes right after eating, it’s likely the aftereffects of overgrazing. If it comes after exercise, though, and especially if there’s neck or left arm pain, it’s likely time to call 911. The differences can indicate a heart attack.
“Occasional heartburn shouldn’t be much of a worry. But if you’re over 50, it’s persistent, involves after-exercise pain or if you’re having unplanned weight loss, it’s time to see a physician,” says Dr. Chintalapani.
The general recipe for heartburn
Heartburn happens when the food travels the wrong way from your stomach into your esophagus. The esophagus can get buy cialis uk burned, much like your skin is burned when you touch something hot. “Chronic heartburn is often caused by gastro esophageal reflux disease — which can create real problems in your esophagus if it’s left untreated,” says Dr. Chinltalapani.
Heartburn’s Red Flags
If you have persistent heartburn and you are a white male smoker over age 50 who is losing weight, you’re flying most of the red flags for serious GERD (gastro esophageal reflux disease). If heartburn is affecting your sleep or your enjoyment of food, or simply troublesome, doctors are standing by to help you out – and you probably need them.
You may find that your doctor recommends an endoscopy. At the Mississippi Valley Endoscopy Center, patients can undergo a gastrointestinal endoscopy as an outpatient. A physician inserts a thin, flexible fiber-optic instrument that is passed through the mouth to see whether there is any damage to the lining of the esophagus or stomach, and whether there are any ulcers in the stomach or duodenum. The procedure is painless and is usually done under a light sedative.
If your doctor sees any of a number of serious conditions, you might be talking about special medication or even surgery to correct a hiatal hernia or other condition. And don’t put it off too long — severe GERD can lead to Barrett’s esophagus, which is a serious risk factor for esophageal cancer.
For other stories related to this subject, check out the following:
- The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services provides a comprehensive explanation the symptoms and causes of GERD.
- There is a National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse, which provides information about digestive diseases to people with digestive disorders and to their families.