It’s the holiday season once again. People all over the country are gathering with their loved ones to eat, drink, and be merry. It’s a fact that a large portion of people will experience heartburn at some point over the holiday. Consuming large amounts of food and drink can commonly trigger this bodily reaction, and we all know that overindulgence is not unheard of when families get together. Since a lot of patients don’t fully understand the reasoning behind the condition, it’s recommended that they have a solid understanding of the causes of heartburn. If you are experiencing persistent heartburn, it’s important to seek medical attention from a specialist. The expert physicians at Reflux Surgery Center of Excellence are known for providing the best care available for conditions involving heartburn, acid reflux, and conditions of the esophagus.

What is Heartburn?

Although it’s called “heartburn”, the condition is not related to the heart. Heartburn occurs when the acid from the stomach seeps into the esophagus and causes irritation. It is an extremely common disorder, as approximately 20% of all Americans experience heartburn on a weekly basis. The main symptom that is created by the stomach acid irritating the esophagus is typically a burning discomfort that is felt in the upper chest area. The occasional case of heartburn is usually not something to worry about, but chronic heartburn may be an indication of an underlying condition and may also lead to more serious problems.

What Causes Heartburn?

There is a muscular valve located between the esophagus and the stomach called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). The purpose of this valve is to keep the stomach acid from coming up and into the esophagus. It will normally open to allow food into the stomach or to allow burping, before closing back up. Sometimes the LES will open up too often or is not able to fully close. When this occurs, the stomach acid can move up, or reflux, into the esophagus.

The typical cause of heartburn is a lower esophageal sphincter that does not fully close. There are two factors that often contribute to this issue: overeating, or too much pressure on the stomach. Certain foods like chocolate, alcohol, and caffeinated products along with meals that consist of a high fat or oil content can lead to heartburn. Additionally, things like pregnancy, obesity, and constipation can be responsible for the excess pressure on the stomach that disrupts the normal functioning of the LES.

For many, the holiday season can be just as stressful as it is enjoyable. Stress has been found to also be a major contributing factor to heartburn, as stress increases the production of acid in the stomach. Lack of sleep also increases this production. It is important to note for all smokers: smoking plays a huge role in preventing the full closure of the LES as well as stimulating stomach acid production.

What to do about Heartburn?

If you suffer from occasional heartburn, there are things you can do to help avoid it. Aside from the various treatment options, the most basic and fundamental prevention method is controlling the type and amount of food that you are ingesting. Moderation is often the key when suffering from occasional heartburn. Although stress and lack of sleep is sometimes unavoidable (especially around the holidays), doing what you can to alleviate stress and catch up on rest can go a long way in preventing heartburn. If you are a smoker that experiences heartburn, consider participating in one of the many available programs and techniques to help you quit. In cases of chronic acid reflux that is unresponsive to conservative treatments like diet changes, our surgeons offer surgical treatment options.

Contact a Los Angeles Heartburn Doctor

If you have questions or would like to learn more about heartburn, acid reflux, or other similar conditions, contact the Reflux Surgery Center of Excellence today. Our award winning specialists can diagnose the problem and help you overcome reflux issues by developing a treatment plan for your individual condition. To schedule a consultation, contact us at (888) 593-1042 or through our contact page.