Heartburn (Reflux) (cont.)

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How is heartburn diagnosed?

Often all that a health care professional requires is a thorough history and physical to make the preliminary diagnosis of heartburn. To evaluate if there is any damage and how severe your heartburn is, the doctor my suggest some of the following tests:

Endoscopy: A flexible scope is passed down the esophagus to examine the esophagus as well as the stomach. Biopsies can be taken if indicated. This lets the doctor see if there is any obvious damage, and also eliminate other reasons for the patient's symptoms (foreign body, malignancy).

Upper GI series (upper GI series): After drinking a liquid that coats the inside of the digestive tract, X-rays are taken. These X-rays will show the outline of the digestive system.

Ambulatory pH testing: This test measures the acidity in the esophagus via a small tube that goes through the nose into the stomach.

What are treatments and home remedies for heartburn?

Heartburn can be treated with lifestyle changes and medications (over-the-counter and prescription). In rare cases, surgical procedures are available to help with severe and chronic heartburn (GERD).

Lifestyle changes

There are several ways to treat and avoid heartburn with lifestyle changes.

  • Weight loss/keeping ideal weight: Excess weight increases the pressure on the stomach, increasing the chance of acid reflux into the esophagus.
  • Quit smoking: Smoking interferes with the proper functioning of the lower esophageal sphincter.
  • Food control: Avoid foods that trigger heartburn (see previously). Consider keeping a food journal to alert you to foods that make your heartburn worse. Decrease the amount of food you eat.
  • Elevate the head of the bed: If you are experiencing heartburn at night, elevating the head of the bed will decrease reflux.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 1/3/2014

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Heartburn - Symptoms Question: What symptoms have you had associated with heartburn?
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Heartburn - Triggers Question: What foods or activities trigger heartburn for you?

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