While its name would lead you to believe heartburn affects the heart, this actually isn’t the case. In reality, the discomfort and/or pain you feel when experiencing heartburn — like after eating a large meal loaded with hot spices — is caused by what’s known as acid reflux. The aforementioned occurs when acid in the stomach floats back up into the throat or esophagus (aka the food pipe), resulting in temporary irritation of the esophageal lining. It’s not a fun feeling, as you can imagine, and for some folks, it happens as often as two or more times a week. This is known as “frequent heartburn,” and needless to say, it can really throw a wrench in one’s quality of life.
The good news? There are multiple different measures you can take in order to prevent and treat heartburn symptoms so that it won’t ruin your day — or a fun night out for that matter. Here, with expert insight from Missouri-based gastrointestinal specialist Dr. Benjamin Schmidt, M.D., we’re breaking down everything you need to know about heartburn, from the most common symptoms and triggers, to how you can tackle it head-on.
The principal symptom of heartburn is an uncomfortable burning sensation in the chest. This is typically felt in the middle of the chest, just behind the breastbone, but may also move up to the neck or throat area. In some cases — and especially if they’re severe — the symptoms of heartburn can be confused with that of a heart attack. “[Symptoms] can cause both pain or discomfort in the chest and neck,” explains Dr. Schmidt. If you experience frequent (see: two or more times a week), unrelenting chest pain, he recommends consulting a doctor who can perform various tests to determine whether something more serious is going on.
Other common symptoms associated with heartburn include bloating, trouble swallowing, burping, hiccupping, and coughing. Additionally, heartburn can create a sour or bitter taste in the throat and mouth, which is the result of acid buildup from your food or drink traveling back up into the esophagus.
Acid reflux, and in turn, heartburn occurs when the sphincter that separates the esophagus and stomach momentarily relaxes, allowing the acid from your stomach to flow back up and cause irritation in the throat. In most cases, this process is triggered when we overeat and lie down following a big meal, or if we consume certain types of foods. Foods that can relax the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) and release stomach acid into the esophagus range from chocolate and peppermint to tomato products, citrus fruits, and anything fried or spicy. Where drinks are concerned, beyond alcohol, carbonated beverages can also be problematic.
It’s also worth noting wearing tight-fitting clothing can increase the pressure on the stomach, making it more likely for heartburn to occur. Additionally, smoking, as well as some medications, like muscle relaxants and blood pressure drugs, can weaken the LES and cause heartburn. Last but not least, hormonal changes during pregnancy can be a trigger as well.
So, what can you do about it? A few things. For starters, steering clear of the aforementioned trigger foods and drinks will surely lessen your chances of experiencing heartburn. That, and doing your best to avoid lying down after eating a meal can also help to minimize symptoms.
Outside of lifestyle changes, you can also turn to over-the-counter antacids such as calcium carbonate, magnesium hydroxide, and aluminum hydroxide. Antacids work by neutralizing stomach acid and can alleviate symptoms pretty quickly. You also have histamine blockers (H2s), like famotidine, which are available without a doctor’s prescription as well. They work by decreasing the amount of acid the stomach produces to help relieve symptoms; however, they only provide relief for up to 12 hours, which means your sleep may be interrupted if it wears off.
For more frequent and severe heartburn symptoms, Dr. Schmidt suggests talking to your healthcare provider about proton pump inhibitors (commonly known as PPIs). PPIs like omeprazole, lansoprazole, and esomeprazole work by blocking the pumps in the stomach that produce acid to limit the amount that’s released. Reducing stomach acid levels this way can offer up to a full 24 hours of relief, making it an especially ideal option available.
While some PPIs require a prescription, others are easily accessible over the counter at the drugstore. Nexium 24HR, for instance, is a pill taken once daily for 14 days containing 20 mg of esomeprazole that stops the production of acid in the stomach before it can lead to acid reflux and ultimately, heartburn. In other words: It blocks acid at the source to stop the problem before it even starts.
And that’s not all. When used as directed,* Nexium 24HR offers all-day and all-night relief, meaning it works twice as long as H2 blockers do. This is not only optimal for your physical health, but for your mental and emotional well-being, too, as it provides you with peace of mind and the ability to go about your life without letting heartburn get in the way. Available in three formats — tablet, capsule, and mini capsule — a single dose delivers a full 24 hours of heartburn acid prevention, so you can live your life and eat what you want, whenever you want. Oh, and did we mention it’s HSA/FSA eligible with a satisfaction or your money-back guarantee? You can’t go wrong.
As if that wasn’t enough, Nexium also puts sustainability at the forefront. Case in point: By changing up its manufacturing technology, the brand reduced its plastic usage by a cool 15 percent since 2021†, and in 2022, it minimized the amount of plastic used by a whopping 24 tons.† Some pretty incredible strides, if you ask us.
*Use as directed for 14 days to treat frequent heartburn. Nexium 24HR may take 1-4 days for full effect.* It’s possible while taking Nexium 24HR. Use as directed for 14 days to treat frequent heartburn. Do not take for more than 14 days or more often than every 4 months unless directed by a doctor. Not for immediate relief.†
†per bottle since 2021
†based on plastic use in 2021
Nexium 24HR capsules are intended for use by adults 18 years of age and older. Children under the age of 18 should consult a doctor before taking this product. Heartburn in children may sometimes be caused by a serious condition. Talk to your doctor before using Nexium 24HR capsules if you’re pregnant or breast-feeding.
Swallow one whole Nexium 24HR capsule with a glass of water before eating in the morning. Do not chew or crush the capsule. Nexium 24HR capsules should be taken once a day, every day for 14 days. It may take between one to four days of treatment for full effectiveness. Do not take more than 1 capsule a day. Do not take Nexium 24HR capsules for longer than 14 days unless you’ve been instructed to do so by your doctor.
You may repeat a 14-day course every 4 months. Do not take for more than 14 days or more often than every 4 months unless directed by a doctor.
For full product directions and more information, view the product label.