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What Causes Heartburn?

Many of us have experienced a burning feeling in our chest after a large, fatty meal or an acidic beverage. Heartburn often causes this unpleasant feeling, but it has other symptoms. While occasional heartburn does not need to cause concern, chronic heartburn may signify other problems. 

What is Heartburn? 

Heartburn occurs when the valve that should keep acid inside your stomach lets some stomach acid escape. This reflux often happens after a heavy or spicy meal and responds well to over-the-counter antacids. On other occasions, heartburn occurs much more often. Your doctor may diagnose GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) and recommend prescription treatments to prevent the condition from causing long-term damage. On rare occasions, heartburn can signal a serious health problem.  

Ibs & Gastrointestinal Disorders Tucson

What Causes Heartburn?

Your body uses a one-way valve called the lower esophageal sphincter to keep stomach acid from escaping and damaging the esophagus. Sometimes, this valve can leak after meals or while lying down, leading to heartburn. Some medications, such as NSAIDs, can make this more likely. If this happens to you on a regular basis, you may have GERD. Obesity, exposure to second-hand smoke, and pregnancy can weaken this valve. 

How is the Cause of Heartburn Diagnosed?

At Cochise Oncology, we specialize in diagnosing and managing even complex digestive conditions. Our Digestive Diagnostics offers the most advanced imaging and testing technology to determine the cause of your heartburn. Depending on the potential causes, diagnostics may include an endoscopy, a swallowing study, or lab testing. 


Simply fill out the form on this page to request an appointment and one of our knowledgable team members will reach out to you. Or call our Sierra Vista oncology center to schedule directly at (520) 803-6644.

How is Heartburn Treated?

Minor or occasional heartburn can be treated with over-the-counter treatments at lifestyle changes. You can improve occasional heartburn by:

  • Avoiding triggering foods like spicy, acidic, or fatty meals
  • Not eating at least two hours before bedtime
  • Sleeping with your head slightly elevated
  • Quitting smoking and avoiding second-hand smoke
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Eating smaller meals more often

You can also take antacids for mild heartburn. Proton pump inhibitors can help manage more frequent symptoms by decreasing the amount of stomach acid produced. Your doctor may recommend these if you are one of the 15 million Americans with daily heartburn. 

If your heartburn does not improve with treatment, you should seek the assistance of a specialist in digestive system disorders. You may have a more significant condition, and heartburn may be a sign. 

What are the Long-Term Effects of Heartburn?

Occasional heartburn usually has no long-term effects. Chronic heartburn or GERD can cause other, more concerning issues if they go untreated. The acid can erode the esophagus and cause an ulcer. It can also cause scar tissue that can narrow the esophagus and put you at higher risk for esophageal cancer. See your doctor or a specialist if your heartburn doesn’t respond to diet and lifestyle changes. 


*Individual Results May Vary


At Cochise Oncology, we know optimal cancer treatment places the patient first – and our patients experience this every day. Read what our satisfied patients are saying about their experiences at Cochise Oncology.

Take the Next Step

Do you have questions about heartburn? Reach out to Cochise Oncology at (520) 803-6644 or fill out the consultation form on this page.

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