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Heartburn Due to Acidic Stomach Contents Re-entering the Esophagus. Courtesy kaiserpermanente.org

Heartburn Due to Acidic Stomach Contents Re-entering the Esophagus.

What Is Heartburn?

Heartburn is a functional upper digestive symptom of esophagitis that is characterized by a burning sensation behind the breastbone.

Q: Why does esophagitis cause heartburn?

A: Esophagitis is inflammation of the mucosal lining of the esophagus. The most common cause of esophagitis is the re-entering of stomach contents into the esophagus because the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) does not close tightly after food or fluids enter the stomach from the esophagus and/or the LES does not remain tightly closed.

The LES is located at the junction of the esophagus and the stomach. It functions like a circular band to tighten after food is ingested in order to prevent its going back up the esophagus when powerful stomach muscles churn ingested food.

Damage to the lining of the esophagus (esophagitis) results upon contact with hydrochloric acid and pepsin in gastric juice. Hydrochloric acid, produced by the stomach to dissolve food, inflames the esophagus, which is the opposite, or alkaline. Pepsin, produced by the stomach to dissolve protein in swallowed food, acts on the inflamed esophagus to break down the protein in its sore wall.

Heartburn can be caused by other disorders such as low stomach acid, obesity, and smoking. Relaxation of the LES can also result from dietary items such as chocolate, mint, caffeine, and alcoholic drinks.

Who is Affected in the General Population? Heartburn affects an estimated 42% of the US population.1

What Is Heartburn In Celiac Disease and/or Gluten Sensitivity?


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  1. http://informahealthcare.com/doi/abs/10.1185/03007990903553812. []