Despite what its name implies, heartburn has nothing to do with your heart.
Rather, it’s a burning sensation in your chest that occurs when stomach acid backs up into your esophagus, the 10-inch tube connecting your mouth to your stomach.
When it hits, heartburn can last for just a few minutes or as long as several hours. Either way, it’s uncomfortable — so it’s no surprise if you’re looking for a way to get rid of the sensation fast.
What causes heartburn and what does it feel like exactly?
According to the American College of Gastroenterology, stomach acid is needed to break down the food you eat, something your stomach has no trouble handling. Your esophagus, on the other hand, is irritated by it.
To keep stomach acid (and digesting food) in your stomach and out of your esophagus, a circular ring of muscle at the tube’s base, called the lower esophageal sphincter, acts as a valve. When this valve is relaxed, food you’ve consumed is allowed to pass through to your stomach. When contracted, this valve prevents this food and acid from backing up into your esophagus.
If this valve relaxes abnormally and stomach acid is allowed to travel back into your esophagus, acid reflux occurs. Heartburn is the most well-known and obvious symptom.
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