Heartburn. The word evokes a frightening picture: your heart on fire, sizzling and smoking, without a firefighter in sight. Fortunately, the word is a misnomer. It's not your heart that's on fire, it's your esophagus. But heartburn is easier to say than "esophagusburn."
Your esophagus, the food tube that carries what you swallow down to your stomach, can literally be burned by the acids released by your stomach.
Unfortunately, we can experience something called reflux, or acid reflux. That's when some of the stomach contents, including the acid, slip back up through the esophageal sphincter, the valve that's supposed to prevent the stomach's contents from reversing course. Reflux causes an uncomfortable, burning sensation between the stomach and the neck. Most people feel the discomfort beneath the breastbone.
Occasionally the acid keeps on coming until you have a mouthful of something bitter and acidy. You may have some pain in your gut, too, or in your chest. Along with that acid may come a belch, one that may bring even more of that stomach acid with it.
Generally, heartburn isn't serious. In fact, small amounts of reflux are normal and most people don't even notice it because the swallowing we do causes saliva to wash the acids right back down into the stomach where they belong. When the stomach starts shooting back amounts that are larger than normal, especially on a regular basis or over a prolonged period of time, that's when the real trouble begins, and simple heartburn can turn into esophageal inflammation or bleeding.
There are several prescription medicines available for the treatment of long-term or serious heartburn or acid reflux, and over-the-counter remedies are available at your pharmacy, too. But there are several home remedies right in your own kitchen that can fight the fire of heartburn. If you suffer from heartburn, read on -- we'll offer some tips for cooling the flames and avoiding heartburn flare-ups.