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FAQs about Heartburn and What Causes It

FAQs about Heartburn and how you can manage it

What is heartburn?

Heartburn occurs when stomach acids reflux, or flow up, into the esophagus. Frequent heartburn is defined as heartburn occurring two or more days a week. Prilosec OTC is indicated for the treatment of frequent heartburn. If you think you may have any of the symptoms of frequent heartburn ,please talk to your doctor or healthcare provider.

What causes heartburn and how can I get rid of it?

Heartburn is caused when stomach acid enters the esophagus. Typically, the LES [Lower Esophageal Sphincter] opens like a one-way valve that allows food into the stomach. However, at times the LES relaxes and allows stomach juices to flow back up into the esophagus, exposing it to the harsh acids in your stomach. Physicians refer to this as gastroesophageal reflux.

For the occasional heartburn, you can try antacids or H2 blockers. Antacids neutralize the acid in your stomach, but they only provide immediate, temporary relief. H2 blockers reduce acid production and relief can last for 12 hours. While they can both work for occasional heartburn, if you have frequent heartburn, you may find that the relief does not last long enough. Proton Pump Inhibitors (like Prilosec OTC) can provide 24-hour relief with a single pill each day.* You can also make a few lifestyle changes to ease your symptoms and reduce the chances of heartburn.

How can I fight my frequent heartburn?

You can experience 24-hour frequent heartburn relief by taking a Proton Pump Inhibitor (PPI), like Prilosec OTC . When you eat, millions of tiny pumps in your stomach produce acid to break down food. Prilosec OTC works by directly blocking these pumps from as much acid, blocking heartburn at the source. A PPI may take 1-4 days for full effect, but can provide 24-hour relief, with just 1 pill a day for 14 days.

You can also try adjusting your lifestyle to reduce the chance of frequent heartburn:

  • Reduce stress: Make time for yourself, prioritize responsibilities, and try to keep things in perspective to reduce stress in your life.

  • Exercise regularly: It’s hard to maintain a routine, but it will help you manage stress and keep you healthier overall. It’ll also help you sleep better. Make sure to talk to your doctor before you start any exercise program.

  • Manage portions: We want that third helping of mac and cheese just as much as you do. But if you decrease your portion sizes, there will be less pressure on the LES, decreasing chances of acid reflux.

  • Stop smoking: Smoking relaxes the valve at the top of your stomach, allowing excess stomach acid to reflux into your esophagus.

Are there certain foods that can cause heartburn?

Yes, there are foods that are more likely to cause your heartburn to flare up, and these are known as heartburn triggers See how you respond to these common triggers. A few of them could be catalysts for your heartburn:

  • Citrus fruits

  • Spicy foods

  • Chocolate

  • Fatty foods

  • Tomatoes or tomato-based products

  • Peppermints

  • Black pepper

  • Vinegar

  • Caffeinated or carbonated beverages

  • Alcoholic beverages

Why does stomach acid irritate the esophagus?

Stomach acid contains a powerful acid called hydrochloric acid. This acid is produced to help the body break down food. While the stomach is naturally protected from this potent acid, the esophagus does not have the same protection. So, if acidic stomach contents come into contact with the esophagus, the esophagus’ skin-like lining can be irritated or injured and result in the burning sensation known as heartburn.

What is GERD?

GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease, is chronic, persistent heartburn, and results from the improper working of the ring of muscle that normally keeps food and acids inside the stomach. When this muscle doesn't work correctly, it allows acids to back up into the esophagus. Other signs of GERD include: regurgitation, difficulty swallowing, coughing, hoarseness, and a lump feeling in your throat. These symptoms can also be indications of other conditions. Prilosec OTC is only indicated for the treatment of frequent heartburn, not GERD. If you think you may have GERD, please talk to your doctor or healthcare provider about having a diagnostic screening test.

What is esophagitis?

When stomach acids repeatedly back up into the esophagus, they can injure the esophagus’ sensitive lining. That injury can lead to uncomfortable inflammation called esophagitis. Eventually, the acid wears away at the esophagus, causing bleeding. If the bleeding is heavy enough, blood can pass into the digestive tract. Esophagitis can also cause ulcers—sensitive, open sores on the lining of the esophagus.

Why do I get more heartburn at night?

Both heartburn during the day and heartburn at night result from stomach acid reflux. However, lying horizontally to sleep at night makes it more likely you will experience more stomach acid reflux than when sitting up or standing.

Do I have to give up everything I love to control my heartburn?

No! Try Prilosec OTC 1 pill a day for 14 days and experience zero heartburn*. With good advice from your healthcare professional, you can also develop a healthy plan to help manage your heartburn. A healthy plan will let you keep eating the foods you love and continue doing the activities you enjoy. Given the many recent advancements in
our understanding and treatment of heartburn, even the most severe heartburn sufferers generally find that they can control their heartburn through heartburn medications and some simple lifestyle changes.