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When it comes to the internal components of your body, you probably don’t notice them until something feels “wrong.” For example, let’s discuss your esophagus. This otherwise unnoticeable tube, responsible for transporting food from your mouth to your stomach, has a big job to do and if something is wrong, you’ll notice.

 

Esophageal Anatomy

Your esophagus is the tube that runs from your mouth to your stomach to control the exchange of air, food, and liquids. There are sphincter muscles at the top and bottom of the esophagus. The upper muscle prevents liquids and food from going down the windpipe into the lungs and moves food down the esophagus toward the stomach. The lower muscle allows food to pass into the stomach and prevents acidic stomach contents from escaping back into the esophagus or lungs.

When Does Heartburn Become a Problem?

Most people experience heartburn at some point in time. That burning sensation felt near the center of your ribcage, usually shortly after eating or drinking, might be acidic stomach contents pushing back up the esophagus from the stomach, which is also known as reflux.

 

However, about 50% of American suffer with GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease), the stage when heartburn becomes a frequent, chronic condition. GERD is best managed with your gastroenterologist to monitor changes in the esophagus and effectiveness of recommended treatment. Left untreated, GERD can cause significant damage to the esophagus, leading to Barrett’s esophagus, esophageal ulcers, strictures (narrowing of the esophagus) or esophageal cancer.

Tips for Keeping Your Esophagus Healthy

Reduce your risk of acid reflux. Choose smaller meals and eat slowly, chewing food thoroughly to aid the process of breaking down food. This will also help the rest of your digestive system work better too. Avoid or limit fatty, acidic or spicy foods, and alcohol or caffeinated beverages such as cola, tea, coffee. If simple changes don’t help, see your gastroenterologist for more specific ideas for relieving symptoms and determining whether your heartburn could really be something more serious. Learn more here.

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