Monday, September 28, 2009

Food and acid indigestion (heartburn, esophageal reflux, gastric reflux)

A condition characterized by a burning pain near the stomach. Typically, this occurs an hour or so after a heavy (fatty) meal and is often relieved by taking ANTACIDS or by drinking MILK. Acid indigestion is the most common gastrointestinal complaint in the United States; one in 10 Americans suffer daily attacks. The pain associated with acid indigestion is caused by STOMACH ACID backing up into the ESOPHAGUS, the region of the throat connecting the mouth with the stomach. Acid indigestion can be caused by air gulped when swallowing large bites of food, which can keep the passageway open. Some food allergies and food sensitivities may trigger acid indigestion by relaxing the sphincter muscles that normally seal off the stomach juices from the esophagus after eating. Although the stomach lining is protected from acid by mucus, the unprotected esophagus is irritated by repeated exposure to acid.
To prevent acid indigestion, patients should eat slowly and chew food thoroughly, avoiding foods and beverages that cause adverse reactions. Common examples include fatty foods, CHOCOLATE, COFFEE, CITRUS FRUIT, and alcoholic beverages. Also
patients should consult a physician for any chronic stomach pain because what feels like acid indigestion may actually be inadequate stomach acid (HYPOCHLORHYDRIA). Patients should seek immediate medical attention if experiencing a crushing pain in the middle of the chest that extends to the left arm, since these symptoms could indicate a heart attack.

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