Digestive Health Archive

Articles

What does heartburn feel like?

Ask the doctor

Q. I think I have heartburn, but I hear that what feels like heartburn is sometimes a more serious condition. How do I know if I have heartburn?

A. You've asked an important question. "Heartburn" describes symptoms caused by the reflux of stomach acid up into the esophagus (the tube that carries food from the mouth down to the stomach). It is a burning sensation. You can feel it high in the abdomen, just below the bottom of the breastbone, or underneath the middle of the breastbone in the chest. In other words, despite the word "heart" in the word "heartburn," real heartburn comes not from the heart, but from the stomach and esophagus.

Answers to the top questions about cannabis extract

Sales of cannabidiol-infused products are expected to top $2 billion by 2021. But is CBD right for you?

Cannabidiol (CBD) is touted as a natural wonder that can help treat symptoms of everything from anxiety to arthritis pain. The plant extract comes from two varieties of cannabis — hemp and marijuana — and is available in creams, tinctures, oils, patches, gummy bears, capsules, and more. You can even add CBD to a latte if you walk into a coffee shop in some cities.

But is CBD safe for older adults? There haven't been a lot of large studies of CBD's safety, but more traditional medicines for pain and anxiety are not free of adverse effects, either. "I think CBD is likely safer than many other treatments people use for pain, insomnia, or anxiety," says Dr. Peter Grinspoon, a primary care physician with Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital. Other physicians don't think we know enough about the safety profile of CBD to be sure.

Feeling the burn? Antacids can provide some relief

But these remedies aren't the best choice if you have frequent heartburn.

You feel the familiar sensation in your chest: heartburn. Again, you find yourself reaching for the bottle of antacids in the medicine cabinet. It's something you've done a few times a week for the past six months. Is it okay to keep popping over-the-counter acid reducers, or is it time to see a doctor?

We asked two experts, Dr. Jennifer Nayor and Dr. Molly Linn Perencevich, both instructors in medicine at Harvard Medical School, for their thoughts on heartburn, including when it's okay to use over-the-counter antacids and when you should seek other treatments. Below are their responses.

Can I prevent diverticulitis?

Ask the doctors

Q. I recently had diverticulitis. I'd like to avoid a recurrence. Is there anything I can do to prevent this painful condition in the future?

A. As people age, small pouches often form in the wall of the large intestine, a condition called diverticulosis. If food or bacteria become trapped in these pouches, they can become inflamed or infected, which is known as diverticulitis.

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