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Is your chest trying to tell you something?

People often have heartburn (a burning sensation deep in the chest) along with indigestion. But heartburn itself is a symptom that may indicate another problem. Heartburn is a very common symptom created by acid reflux, a condition where stomach acid flows back up into the oesophagus (food pipe or gullet), creating a burning pain in the lower chest.

What causes heartburn?

Heartburn is most common after eating a large meal but specific triggers for heartburn differ from person to person. Common heartburn causes are;

  1. Alcohol, particularly red wine
  2. Black pepper, garlic, raw onions, and other spicy foods
  3. Chocolate
  4. Citrus fruits and products, such as oranges and orange juice
  5. Coffee and caffeinated drinks, including tea and soda
  6. Pregnancy (in women)
  7. Medicines (painkillers, aspirins, steroids)

Preventing heartburn

To prevent heartburn after meals:

  1. Don’t overeat. Eat five or six small meals each day, instead of several large meals.
  2. Don’t eat before bedtime. Allow 2 hours to digest your food before lying down. Lying down makes digestion difficult and makes heartburn more likely.
  3. Quit smoking

Most people with heartburn are diagnosed on the basis of the patient’s clinical history and the person’s response to OTC medications. However, more severe symptoms may be due to an underlying cause. Your doctor may schedule additional tests that may include an upper GI endoscopy, pH probe study (for acid measurement), esophageal manometry (for pressure test), upper GI series or other tests, depending on the suspected underlying cause.