Q. I’m trying to find out what causes heartburn and how best to treat it. Is it caused by eating too fast? Can heartburn cause heart attacks?
My boyfriend has discomfort nearly every night. A guy he works with has recommended vinegar, but that seems ridiculous.
A. Heartburn happens when stomach acid splashes back into the esophagus. The corrosive chemicals are irritating to the delicate lining of the gullet.
Many foods and drugs can make heartburn worse. Eating rapidly or overeating may also aggravate it.
We agree that vinegar sounds like the last thing to take for heartburn, but we heard from a reader who found it helpful:
“A doctor advised a family friend to take a tablespoon of vinegar for heartburn relief. I tried two teaspoons of apple cider vinegar and it worked. It tastes strong for a few minutes and I thought the heartburn was worse. Then the pain went away for good.”
Another unlikely candidate is a spoonful of yellow mustard. Several readers sing its praises. Chewing sugarless gum may sound equally preposterous, but it can alleviate the symptoms surprisingly well.
We list a number of medicines and foods that can contribute to heartburn in our Guide to Digestive Disorders. Chronic heartburn may signal a more serious condition, such as Barrett’s esophagus, and requires medical attention. PPIs such as omeprazole or Nexium can control heartburn, but rebound reflux may it hard to stop taking them.
Heartburn does not cause heart attacks, but the symptoms may be confused.