That burning feeling in the pit of your chest – heartburn – has become such a common and temporary inconvenience that most people just pop a few antacids when it strikes and keep it moving. But, chronic heartburn can lead to more serious conditions, like gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), that require a doctor’s immediate attention.
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Heartburn Vs. GERD
Nearly 2 out of 5 Americans will experience heartburn at least once a month. Heartburn happens when stomach acid backs up into the esophagus. The acid eats away at the lining of the esophagus, causing the burning feeling.
Heartburn can be triggered by eating spicy and fatty foods, stress, obesity and in pregnant women, it’s a common ailment (affecting nearly half of all pregnant women) due to the growing baby putting pressure on the stomach and forcing stomach juices up.
According to Michael Vaezi, MD, PhD, if the heartburn is happening more than usual and is bothersome, you should seek medical attention. “”Any level of reflux where a patient says, ‘This can’t be normal,’ should be evaluated.”