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Does a spicy dinner mean you’ll be reaching for the antacid an hour later? You’re probably suffering from heartburn, a burning feeling in the chest caused by stomach acid backing up into the tube that connects the mouth to the stomach (esophagus). It happens when the muscle that normally keeps the stomach acid down isn’t working properly. If heartburn occurs a few times a week or more, or if over-the-counter medicines don’t offer relief, you should see your doctor. 

If you have chest pain, call your doctor or a medical professional right away. Chest pain can be a sign of a serious medical condition.


First, you’ll meet with your doctor for a physical exam. Your doctor be able to make a diagnosis of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) based on your symptoms and exam and begin treatment. Tests that your doctor might consider:

  • Endoscopy: A flexible tube equipped with a light and a tiny camera (endoscope) is inserted down the throat to see inside the esophagus and stomach. If needed, a tissue sample (biopsy) can be done during an endoscopy. These samples are examined in a lab to check for problems.
  • pH monitoring: This test checks for stomach acid in the esophagus.  
  • Motility testing: This measures if the esophagus is working properly. A thin, flexible tube (catheter) is inserted into the nose, down the esophagus and into the stomach.

Services & Treatment

Heartburn can be successfully treated with over-the-counter medications like:

  • Antacids. These will address symptoms but won’t fix any damage stomach acid has caused in the esophagus. Using them too often can cause diarrhea or constipation.
  • H-2 receptor blockers. This heartburn medication reduces the amount of acid the body makes. They don’t act quickly, but they can help relieve symptoms for longer periods of time. 
  • Proton-pump inhibitors. These block the acid the body makes, which allows the esophagus to heal.

Dietary/lifestyle recommendations:

  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Eat smaller, more frequent, meals
  • Avoid eating 3-4 hours before bed time
  • Elevate head off bed 6 inches with a pillow wedge
  • Avoid fatty foods, alcohol, chocolate, caffeine and peppermint
  • Do not smoke

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