Heartburn is a burning sensation felt deep inside the chest, behind the breastbone. Heartburn is caused by a backflow of stomach acids into the esophagus, which is the tube that carries food from the mouth to the stomach. This backflow irritates the esophageal lining, causing burning pain that can last for minutes or hours. Heartburn usually occurs shortly after eating a meal. There are a number of self-help measures you can do to try to alleviate heartburn symptoms, including taking over-the-counter antacids before meals and at bedtime. It's best to avoid heavy meals and foods that may irritate your stomach, such as fried foods, chocolate, tomato products, citrus fruits, and peppermints. It is also recommended that you do not smoke, since smoking stimulates the production of stomach acid. If you're overweight, your symptoms may subside if you lose weight. Although heartburn is rarely a serious problem, it's often difficult to tell that chest pain is actually just coming from acid irritation of the esophagus and any chest pain should be evaluated. If you have not already been diagnosed as having acid heartburn, and this condition is new for you, or if you have other symptoms, such as shortness of breath, sweating, palpitations, or pain radiating to the jaw, shoulders, or arms, please call a doctor, or get health care immediately. For more information about heartburn, contact a health care provider.
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