What Causes Heartburn?

Heartburn has nothing to do with the heart. It is an irritation of the esophagus (the muscular tube between the throat and the stomach) caused by stomach acid that’s escaping into it.

Heartburn is also known as acid indigestion, acid reflux or gastroesophageal regurgitation disease (GERD). Overeating or too much pressure on the abdomen — frequently because of obesity or pregnancy – can trigger this very unpleasant condition.

Eating spicy, acidic or fatty foods, in particular, can lead to heartburn, as can drinking alcohol. So can certain medications — especially aspirin, ibuprofen and some antibiotics. Smoking can also cause heartburn, because it stimulates the release of stomach acid.

Heartburn is common. If you feel it often, it may cause serious problems, such as bleeding or scarring in the esophagus. As an occasional source of discomfort, however, it isn’t dangerous. Medication or changes in your lifestyle will generally take care of it.

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