Heartburn is really a very descriptive name. The moment you hear the word, you have some idea of what it entails. There’s a pain or discomfort that resembles burning, and you feel it in your chest or abdomen, not far from your heart. It certainly flows a lot more easily off of the tongue than gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), the condition for which it is often the most prominent symptom. It’s also a form of indigestion.

GERD involves the contents of the stomach moving the wrong way through the body, traveling up into the esophagus (to give the throat its proper name). It can make it difficult or painful to swallow; damage teeth; cause pain, coughing or regurgitation; and in more serious cases, if left untreated, can also lead to inflammation or changes in the structure and cells of the esophagus. It’s not the only cause of heartburn, but it’s the most common.

In the case of heartburn, the problem is specifically gastric acid. When it’s in the stomach lining where it’s supposed to be, gastric acid activates the enzymes needed for digestion and helps break down proteins. When it passes through the chest en route to the esophagus, it’s what causes the burning, discomfort and sometimes outright pain of heartburn. This may exist alongside other symptoms of GERD, such as hiccups, coughing, a bloated feeling, hoarse voice, bad breath and an unpleasant taste in your mouth.

The fact that heartburn is caused by a type of acid explains why the first line of treatment when trying to alleviate symptoms is antacid medication. In the long term, dietary changes such as cutting back on fatty and spicy foods may help, especially if you make your meals smaller and don’t lie down after eating or eat just before bed. Alcohol, chocolate and coffee are other things that can aggravate it. Smoking, obesity, pregnancy and stress are all risk factors. There can also be a hormonal element.

Many people experience heartburn. Once you’re aware of things that trigger it for you, it should be easy to manage symptoms, such as by avoiding aggravating foods. What’s also important is that it isn’t confused with more serious conditions, such as heart attacks, which can also involve chest pain. If lifestyle changes and antacids aren’t managing your heartburn, talk to your doctor in case something more serious is happening.

Related Posts

Gut Health Test

There’s increasing awareness that our gut health isn’t just important when digesting food, but can also be a significant indicator of what’s happening in the rest of our body. If issues in the gut can act as early warning signs of wider health problems, then a gut health test is obviously a valuable investment. That

Read More »


If you’re a sufferer of IBS or other digestive problems, you may have encountered the concept of the low-FODMAP diet. What exactly are FODMAPs and why are they important? They’ve been linked to all kinds of digestion-related symptoms, so it may help to know exactly what we mean. FODMAP is an acronym that stands for

Read More »

Herbs And Spices

Sometimes you just need to add a bit of extra spice to your food. It’s not about the health benefits – at least, they’re not usually the first things on your mind. You just want better flavors. If certain spices can actually improve your gut health, boosting some of those good bacteria down there, that’s

Read More »
Scroll to Top