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14 Ways to Prevent Heartburn and Acid Reflux

Heartburn often starts following a meal when there's lots of acid in the stomach or when you're bending over or lying down allowing gravity to pull acid from the stomach into the esophagus. It can awaken you from sleep.

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The burning sensation can last minutes or longer and usually is relieved by swallowing antacids. Heartburn often is accompanied by other symptoms.

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Acid-tasting stuff sometimes containing small particles of chewed, partially digested food can regurgitate up to and irritate your throat, producing a sour or salty taste, or causing you to make so much saliva that it sometimes drips out of your mouth. People who have had heartburn for a long time sometimes have trouble swallowing food because stomach acid has irritated and narrowed the esophagus, so that food sticks going down or swallowing becomes painful.

Reflux of stomach acid up to the vocal cords in the throat can cause hoarseness, a chronic cough, or wheezing. When you have what seems like "just" heartburn, what serious conditions should you worry about?

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If you've had heartburn for a long time, acid can irritate the bottom part of your esophagus and raise the risk of cancer forming there. Heartburn may be caused by an ulcer in the stomach or small intestine, which can cause serious bleeding or an abdominal infection.

If you've had heartburn for many years and done little or nothing about it, your doctor should check it out. Finally, what seems like "just" heartburn can actually be a condition called angina—a symptom caused by the buildup of fatty deposits in the arteries of the heart, which can cause a heart attack and even sudden death. If, along with your heartburn pain, you feel lightheaded or faint; if you break out in a sweat; or if the pain goes into your jaw, your shoulders, your back, or down your arms, contact your doctor.

While it still might really be just heartburn, the chance that it's heart trouble is great enough that you need to get it checked out. Food and Drug Administration released a statement last week saying some ranitidine medicines, including the brand-name drug Zantac, contain traces of N-nitrosodimethylamine NDMA.

Heartburn and Reflux

The FDA said NDMA levels found in the medications in early tests are not much higher than those in some common foods—but it is still investigating the potential risk to patients. Zantac and other ranitidine drugs are used to prevent and treat gastroesophageal reflux and stomach ulcers.

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The medications come in both prescription and over-the-counter forms. At high levels, the chemical has resulted in liver toxicity in rats , and chronic low doses have also been linked to liver and esophageal tumors in the animals.

Heartburn - Symptoms and causes - Mayo Clinic

The chemical is sometimes found at low amounts in drinking water and many foods , including smoked or cured ones such as bacon , as well as beer, fish and cheese. But Sandoz stopped distributing the drug out of an abundance of caution, according to spokesperson Michelle Bauman. In its statement, the FDA said it is not currently calling for people to stop taking ranitidine but that individuals who are taking it in a prescription drug and want to stop should consult a doctor.

We are working closely with the FDA and are conducting our own robust investigations to ensure we continue to meet the highest-quality safety and quality standards. NDMA has also been linked to blood-pressure and heart-failure medications called angiotensin II receptor blockers, leading to numerous recalls over the past year. Tanya Lewis is an associate editor at Scientific American who covers health and medicine.