Dr. Balentine received his undergraduate degree from McDaniel College in Westminster, Maryland. He attended medical school at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine graduating in1983. He completed his internship at St. Joseph's Hospital in Philadelphia and his Emergency Medicine residency at Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center in the Bronx, where he served as chief resident.
A muscle called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) at the bottom of the esophagus normally prevents foods and acid from backing up. This muscle acts like a tight drawstring to close off the opening between the esophagus and stomach when
a person is not eating.
Heartburn occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter does not close all the way.
Why doesn't the lower esophageal sphincterclose all the way?
Many different things loosen the lower esophageal sphincter.
Certain foods and drinks loosen the lower esophageal sphincter. These include chocolate, peppermint, caffeine-containing beverages (such as coffee, tea, and soft drinks), fatty foods, and alcohol.
The body's position affects the lower esophageal sphincter. It is easier for stomach acid to flow back into the esophagus if
a person is lying down or bending over.
Anything that increases the pressure on the stomach can force stomach acid backward and cause heartburn. Lifting, straining, coughing, tight clothing, obesity, and pregnancy can worsen heartburn.
Certain medical conditions increase
a person's chance of suffering from heartburn. A
hiatal hernia, diabetes, and many autoimmune diseases (CREST syndrome, Raynaud's phenomenon, and scleroderma) are linked to heartburn.