Maybe you enjoyed your favorite spicy food or a margarita during girls’ night out, and now you’re suffering for it. You know that burning feeling that seems to start in your chest and move up to your throat. Heartburn! You might try to douse the flames with a glass of milk or take an over-the-counter antacid. When it finally subsides you may say, “I’ll never it a stuffed jalapeño again!” But life goes on and you don’t have another episode until the family votes for Saturday night dinner at your favorite Mexican restaurant.
If your heartburn is just an occasional, passing irritant, you don’t need to fret. But if you’re having heartburn on a regular basis, it’s time to talk to your physician and find out if something more serious may be going on.
Heartburn is the most common symptom of gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD. GERD happens when the ring of muscle that keeps food and acids in the stomach, doesn’t work right. As a result, acids back up into the esophagus, also known as acid reflux. The big threat is that persistent heartburn can erode the lining of the esophagus and cause the cells to change and become precancerous, leading to a condition called Barrett’s Esophagus. According to the American Cancer Society 1 out of 1,000 people with Barrett’s Esophagus will develop esophageal cancer.
So you might say, it’s just a little heartburn. But remember, if it’s chronic – let’s say you’ve had it for two weeks and those chalky tablets aren’t giving you any relief. If your heartburn symptoms have changed, they affect your daily life, and if difficulty swallowing occurs with the heartburn - you need to see your doctor!