Have you ever experienced heartburn? The painful and uncomfortable condition is one that many suffer from, usually after eating large amounts of food or even just something particularly spicy.
For most, it is something that is temporary and easily solved using an antacid, and prevented by a change in eating habits.
For some, however, the condition can be something that reoccurs, seemingly without cause or provocation. For these people, the condition can cause significant discomfort and distress over long periods of time.
Chronic heartburn is a symptom of several chronic conditions, notably fibromyalgia.
However, since gastric conditions can be symptomatic of many different problems, it is important to seek the advice of a medical professional should you find yourself suffering from any such problem, as an accurate diagnosis will result in finding the best treatment for your individual condition.
So what is heartburn? Heartburn is a condition named for a burning sensation that typically occurs in the chest and throat, usually spreading from the solar plexus and up the chest in a spreading motion, causing significant discomfort and pain in the sufferer and significantly ruining the rest of their day.
This is a result of acid from the stomach making its way back up into your esophagus during digestion, in a process known as acid indigestion.
This occurs usually due to a muscle known as the esophageal sphincter, which is a small muscle that regulates the passage of materials from the throat to the stomach.
The muscle will relax to allow food to pass from the throat to the stomach, and is then supposed to contract once more to keep everything contained in the stomach’s acid bath in order to aid digestion.
However, for those suffering with gastroesophageal reflux, this muscle can often fail to close up due to weakness or inappropriate relaxation.
When this happens, acid goes back up the esophagus from the stomach, causing a painful burning sensation all throughout the chest.
Heartburn is frequently accompanied by sweating, heart palpitations, and even shortness of breath. As such, the condition is often mistaken for a heart problem, and it is worth consulting a medical professional to rule out cardiac problems.
If you find yourself regularly needing antacids for heartburn relief, it is a good idea to have a professional check you out in order to check whether or not it is a significant health concern.
For most, heartburn happens only occasionally: once a week or even less frequently. However, there are some for whom this is a regular – even daily – occurrence.
In these cases, there is usually an underlying condition which is causing the problems with the esophageal sphincter.
If you notice that you are experiencing heartburn frequently despite good eating habits, then it is indicative of an underlying problem.
Fibromyalgia is a condition that is associated with a variety of different gastric complaints, including irritable bowel syndrome and spastic colitis, and heartburn is a common symptom.
Since heartburn can also cause improper sleep pattern and general feelings of pain and nausea, it can often mask the underlying condition of fibromyalgia, of which these are all symptoms.
However, if you find yourself suffering from a significant number of the most common symptoms of fibromyalgia including heartburn, you should consult your primary care physician in order to rule out other conditions and get a firm diagnosis.
A doctor can use lab tests to effectively rule out other medical conditions which could be the culprit, and can more effectively treat your individual problem by narrowing it down to a specific underlying condition.
What can be done about heartburn? Heartburn is one of those things that has been around as long as humans, and it is a symptom that we have become remarkably effective at relieving.
The most common solution to alleviate the burning sensation is the use of antacids such as Pepto-Bismol or Rennie to neutralize the stomach acid and prevent further stomach upset.
However, this only treats the symptom, so while it is a good solution in the short term, the use of antacids should not be used to put off a visit to the doctor.
Similarly, there are some simple and effective lifestyle changes that can be made in order to stave off heartburn.
These include reduced meal sizes, more thorough chewing, not eating too soon before sleeping, and avoiding heavy exercise after eating.
In extreme cases, chronic heartburn can be treated using surgery to strengthen the esophageal sphincter, thereby preventing or at the very least lessening the frequency of attacks.
It is vitally important that heartburn is not ignored, as its effects are more than simple sleep disruption and discomfort.
The esophagus, unlike the stomach, is not something that has evolved to deal with the strong digestive acids we produce, and so chronic heartburn can lead to significant problems including ulcers, bleeds, and even cancers.
Stress is another factor which can significantly increase your chances of an attack of acid reflux, and is one of the major problems faced by sufferers of fibromyalgia.
Due to underlying problems such as anxiety, poor sleep, and ongoing pain and discomfort, fibromyalgia causes the sufferer a huge amount of daily stress.
Learning effective coping mechanisms for living with the condition can help reduce the frequency and severity of bouts of heartburn for many, and increase your well being dramatically.
The most important step in living with fibromyalgia and any chronic condition is consulting a doctor. By getting a firm diagnosis and consulting regularly with a physician about your individual problems and symptoms, you will be in a much better place to tackle symptoms and issues that can compound the condition’s effects on everyday living.
Through proactive and medically informed action, you can effectively alleviate many of the symptoms of fibromyalgia and reclaim your life by making use of the myriad treatments and lifestyle changes available today. Fibromyalgia may be incurable, but it doesn’t have to run your life.