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UPMC Gastroenterologist: Don’t Get Burned by Heartburn

Everyone loves to indulge in fast food, processed snacks, and carbonated beverages from time to time. We know that they aren’t the best for us health wise, but did you know that they can also trigger heartburn?

Heartburn is the burning feeling in your chest, up to the back of your throat, caused by acid reflux, or the backward flow of stomach acid into the esophagus. Not only is it uncomfortable, but it can also leave you with a sour taste in your mouth. Learn about the ways to help treat this condition and know when to reach out to your physician if it starts to affect your everyday life.

Treating Heartburn

Most of the time, antiacids can help relieve heartburn symptoms as they neutralize stomach acid. However, if you’re experiencing the condition more often and it’s affecting your quality of life, it may be time to make a few lifestyle changes like the following:
– Avoid trigger foods, especially foods high in spice, salt, or fat
– Limit caffeinated and carbonated beverages
– Eat at least two to three hours before lying down to sleep
– Sleep with your head raised about six inches
– Lose weight
– Reduce stress
– Limit alcohol consumption
– Stop smoking or the use of tobacco
– Avoid exercise after eating

If these changes are still not making a difference to your experience with heartburn, it may be time to consult your primary care provider.
Long-term Effects of Heartburn

Heartburn is a condition that can become chronic and lead to other problems like GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) or Barrett’s esophagus.
GERD may be diagnosed if the signs of acid reflux occur at least twice a week and interfere with daily living. When the effects of GERD have become long-term, Barrett’s esophagus may develop. This condition is a precancerous change in the cells in the lower portion of the esophagus.
When to Call Your Doctor

It’s important to reach out to your doctor if your heartburn symptoms are severe or if they occur more than two times a week. Nonemergent symptoms that may also warrant a visit with your primary care provider include trouble swallowing, unwanted weight loss, or a cough or wheezing that does not go away.

If you experience black or maroon stool or vomit that appears like coffee grounds or is bloody, you should seek urgent medical attention.

If the stomach or chest discomfort becomes worse with exertion or activity, it’s important to get evaluated by doctor right away to rule out a heart attack. Other symptoms of a heart attack that you may feel that should trigger urgent care are shortness of breath, pain or discomfort in your jaw, neck, stomach, or arms, a cold sweat, nausea, lightheadedness.

Don’t Get Burned by Heartburn
Emily Suvock, D.O.
Gastroenterology, UPMC

Emily Suvock, D.O., is with UPMC Gastroenterology and sees patients at UPMC Williamsport, 700 High St., Williamsport. For more information, visit