The Painful History of Heartburn
As we discuss different ailments a certain question often comes up: “How did our ancestors deal with this?” Many people have taken to living like our ancestors in an effort to combat the many diseases that would appear to be unique to our contemporary culture, like obesity, diabetes and other conditions.
For sure, our sedentary lifestyles and influx of “desk jobs” have created health risks that our more active predecessors would never have imagined, but that is what comes with the 9-to-5 lifestyle tolerated by such a wide majority of people in Atlanta. Acid reflux and heartburn are not conditions that often fall into this discussion. Maybe it will make you feel a bit better to know that your ancestors had the same frustrating experiences with heartburn and acid reflux that you are still coping with today.
The Truth about Heartburn: It’s Been Here a Long Time
The earliest historians can detect the diagnosis of heartburn is about 3000 BC, in ancient Mesopotamia. Of course, the world at that time didn’t have 60 million people, which is how many are estimated to struggle with heartburn and acid reflux currently, so it may not have been considered such a huge problem. But nevertheless, heartburn was enough of a nuisance to earn a word of its own.
In the first century AD, Pliny the Elder of Rome wrote about heartburn, describing methods to treat the fire burning within the chest. Pliny recommended “coral powder,” which oddly enough contained calcium carbonate—an ingredient still used in many over-the-counter medications today.
In Greece the ailment was also well-known. The famed physician Galen referred to heartburn as “kardialgia” which literally translates to “heart pain.” It is likely not a surprise to you that early cultures mistook the burning sensations of heartburn with chest pain, as the esophagus is located directly behind the breast bone.
Heartburn made its appearance early on in human culture, but back then there wasn’t much anyone could do in the way of treatment. Successful treatment for heartburn and acid reflux didn’t make an appearance until the mid-20th century, and even then medications could only reduce the symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease—not cure it.
You are luckier than your ancestors in that you live in a culture with the tools and expertise to correct the cause of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Dr. Bagnato is a highly experienced acid reflux surgeon who offers minimally invasive and incisionless acid reflux surgery for those living near Atlanta to obtain treatment and return to their regular lives heartburn and reflux-free.
The history of heartburn may be long, but your future with it doesn’t need to be. Talk with your GERD surgeon about ways to overcome heartburn once and for all.