Think you may be taking too many antacids? Wondering what heartburn is and what you can do about it?

We asked the National Institutes of Health to tell us more.

We know: Heartburn and Acid Reflux

Whatís heartburn and acid indigestion?

Heartburn is a burning sensation to the chest or throat that often occurs when refluxed stomach acid touches the lining of the esophagus. Sometimes you can taste the fluid in the back of your mouth. This is acid indigestion.

When you have heartburn more than twice a week it can be considered gastro esophageal reflux disease or GERD.

What causes GERD?

Your esophagus carries food from the mouth to the stomach. GERD occurs when a muscle in your lower esophagus doesnít close properly and the contents in your stomach leak back into your esophagus.

Who can get GERD?

Anyone, including infants, children and pregnant women.

What are the symptoms of GERD?

Symptoms include persistent heartburn and acid regurgitation. Some people have GERD without heartburn. Instead, they experience pain the chest, hoarseness in the morning and trouble swallowing.

Other symptoms include the feeling food is stuck in your throat, you are choking, a dry cough and bad breath.

In children, GERD may be caused by immature digestive systems. A child may repeatedly vomit, cough or have respiratory problems.

What are the common treatments for GERD?

Treatments include:

  • Lifestyle changes: Stop smoking and drinking, lose weight (if needed), eat small means, wear loose-fitting clothes, avoid lying down for 3 hours after a meal, and raise your head 6-8 inches when sleeping.
  • Medications: If you use antacids for more than 2 weeks itís time to see a doctor. Here are some over-the-counter drugs and also some drugs your doctor may prescribe for you: antacids like Maalox, calcium carbonate antacids like Tums, foaming agents like Gaviscon, H2 blockers like Tagamet HB, Proton pump inhibitors like Prilosec, and prokentics like Reglan.
  • Surgery: The standard procedure is called fundoplications. It can be performed with a laparoscope and only requires small incisions in the abdomen. It usually involves a short hospital stay and 2-3 week recovery.
  • Implant: The Food and Drug Administration has approved an implant for people who wish to avoid surgery, but the long term effects are not yet known.

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