It’s a common issue for people across the country; burning pain in the chest, bloating, nausea, and a bitter taste in the mouth. These are symptoms of heartburn, which over 60 million Americans experience at least once a month. Since the start of the pandemic heartburn may even be more common than it was before.

What You Need To Know

  • Over 60 million Americans deal with heartburn symptoms at least once a month.
  • 15 million Americans deal with heartburn every day.
  • The pandemic has caused people to be more stressed.

“There is a huge rush to get in to be seen by a doctor so I think a lot of patient population is just sitting and waiting and trying to manage it at home and when we were open they were like we need to see them right now,” Dr. Atul Maini, a St. Joseph’s hospital physician says. Maini describes two types of reflux via a Zoom interview on Tuesday. 

“There’s physiological reflux. We train the patients to know. There will be times in your life that you’ll be extremely stressed, you feel like impending doom. You feel like you’re going to collapse. You feel like you’re having a panic attack. That describes that. There’s a physiological effect to acid coming back up in your esophagus,” Dr. Maini says.

That type of reflux can be caused by the stress felt during the Pandemic. For that, Dr. Maini has some tips and tricks for how to handle it. 

“Stress control, exercise, lose some weight if you are on the borderline of obesity, no drinking later in the day,” Dr. Maini says.

Pathological reflux is more concerning. 

“Pathological heartburn, where the real problem starts is basically a failure of that valve I described earlier at the junction of the esophagus- the food pipe and the stomach,” Dr Maini says. 

If you, like 15 million other Americans are dealing with heartburn symptoms every day, Dr. Maini says you should call your doctor. 

“If you are 20 years old or 70 years old, if you have a large hernia in your diaphragm it’s not going to fix by itself. If you have the sphincter problems, and the sphincter is not working and we find that out, it is not going to fix by itself. For those definitely there are indications for surgery. These things are serious stuff,” Dr. Maini says.

As for over the counter options, Dr. Maini says that proton pump inhibitors like Prilosec and Prevacid are okay to take to control heartburn symptoms, but for no more than three months.

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