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The Difference Between Heartburn And Acid Reflux

Indigestion Doesn’t Always Involve Reflux

What Is The Difference Between Heartburn And Acid Reflux?

Indigestion conveys that a person is having unpleasant stomach symptoms, perhaps associated with his intake or a specific meal, but not necessarily so. Occasional heartburn from acid reflux is very common, so for many people who say they have indigestion, it’s likely they are referring to acid reflux symptoms. However, many possibilities other than acid reflux can make a person feel like there’s something wrong with their stomach. For some, the medical term dyspepsia is a better fit than heartburn for these symptoms. Dyspepsia is a burning discomfort in the stomach, sometimes likened to hunger pains — except that it occurs on a full stomach, too. Like acid reflux, dyspepsia may be accompanied by a variety of other symptoms, including belching, bloating and feelings of gassiness, nausea or fullness.

What’s The Difference Between Heartburn And Gerd

Many people experience heartburn on occasion. Some people are more prone to it than others or only feel uncomfortable under specific circumstances, such as when eating certain foods or lying down immediately after eating. Symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease may be similar, but since it is a chronic condition, it may require a doctors care.

Heres how to tell whether the symptoms youre feeling are due to occasional heartburn or GERDand when its time to see a doctor.


More than 60 million Americans experience heartburn at least once each month. Sometimes mistaken for a heart attack, heartburn may cause mild to severe pain in the chest. But despite its name, it is not related to the heart. Rather, it is related to the digestive system and is a symptom of acid reflux.

Acid reflux occurs when the muscle that joins your esophagus and stomach is weak or doesnt tighten properly. When this happens, the acid from your stomach may move backward, into your esophagus. This most commonly occurs after eating spicy or citrus foods, drinking coffee or alcohol, eating a big meal, eating too quickly or laying down too soon after eating.


Gastroesophageal reflux disease is a chronic form of acid reflux. Symptoms of GERD include:

  • Frequent heartburn/chest pain
  • Feeling like theres a lump in the back of your throat
  • Trouble swallowing

Is There A Difference Between Heartburn Acid Reflux And Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease

Have you ever eaten food and experienced an unpleasant feeling of the food coming back into your throat? That uncomfortable, burning, and even painful sensation is what is known as heartburn.

Heartburns are a common occurrence, and a staggering 60 million-plus Americans usually experience heartburns once a month. Even worse, close to 15 million Americans experience heartburns daily.

But before you look for a gastroenterologist near you, you need to know the interlinking between heartburns, acid reflux, and gastroesophageal reflux disease .

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Heartburn Acid Reflux And Gerd Whats The Difference

Actually, each term has a distinct meaning. Here is how they are different:


Heartburn is not a medical condition, but a symptom. It describes the mild to severe burning pain felt in the chest or throat when acid from the stomach seeps up into the esophagus. Heartburn pain can feel dull, sharp or tight, and it often moves up to the throat. Some people describe the pain as a feeling that something is lodged behind the breastbone.

Heartburn has nothing to do with your heart, but it can be mistaken for a heart attack because of the location of the pain. Over 60 million Americans experience heartburn at least monthly, and it usually occurs after a meal.

Acid Reflux

Acid reflux occurs when stomach acid flows back into the esophagus due to a weakening of the lower esophageal sphincter . When functioning properly, the LES tightens to close the passage between the stomach and esophagus. If the muscle is weak or fails to tighten properly, gastric acid and digested food can back up into the esophagus.

Common symptoms of acid reflux may include cough, sore throat, sour taste in the mouth, and burning in the chest and throat.

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease

GERD is an acronym for gastroesophageal reflux disease. When acid reflux occurs more than twice per week, it can be diagnosed as GERD. Prolonged exposure to gastric acid creates inflammation and increases risk for esophageal tissue damage which can lead to cancer.

What Are The Common Acid Reflux Symptoms

Heres The Difference Between Acid Reflux, Heartburn, and ...

Heartburn, regurgitation, and dyspepsia are a few of the most common acid reflux symptoms.

Heartburn. Also called acid indigestion, heartburn is a burning pain or discomfort that can move up from your stomach to the middle of your abdomen and chest. The pain can also move into your throat. Despite its name, heartburn doesn’t affect your heart.

Regurgitation. Another common symptom of acid reflux is regurgitation — or the sensation of acid backing up into your throat or mouth. Regurgitation can produce a sour or bitter taste, and you may experience “wet burps.”

Dyspepsia. Many people with acid reflux disease also have a syndrome called dyspepsia. Dyspepsia is a general term for stomach discomfort. Symptoms of dyspepsia include:

Symptoms of acid reflux may be a sign that stomach acid has inflamed your esophagus. When that happens, stomach acid can damage the lining of your esophagus and cause bleeding. Over time, it can also change the cells of esphagus and cause cancer .

Although acid reflux is extremely common and rarely serious, don’t ignore your acid reflux symptoms. Making a few lifestyle changes and using over-the-counter antacids are often all you need to control acid reflux symptoms.

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Acid Reflux: The Cause

Acid reflux is when the contents of your stomachlike food or acidsgo in the wrong direction. They travel from your stomach back to your throat through the tube connecting them, your esophagus.

When you have acid reflux, you may taste food or stomach acid in the back of your mouth. This can be uncomfortable and make you feel sick. Acid reflux is also referred to as GER .

The Difference Between Acid Reflux And Peptic Ulcers

  • The Difference between Acid Reflux and Peptic Ulcers

It doesnt matter if you are sitting in a boardroom, preparing dinner, reading your favorite book, or in the middle of your morning workoutthe ball of burning pain that characterizes acid reflux is never convenient. Better known as heartburn, this condition is caused by excess gastric acid traveling up into the esophagus. Unless it becomes chronic, acid reflux can frequently be managed by popping a quick antacid and going on about our day.

Unfortunately, that burning pain also feels an awful lot like the pain of a peptic ulcer. Unlike the occasional bout of acid reflux, peptic ulcers require medical attention. Left untreated, stomach ulcers can lead to dangerous infections and serious blood loss. So how do you know when to worry?

Read on to learn more about the differences between acid reflux and peptic ulcers.

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Delaying Treatment May Lead To Complications

If GERD goes untreated, it can lead to more serious complications. One such issue is esophagitis, which is inflammation in the esophagus. Hagan says if thats not treated, you may develop strictures, which is a narrowing of the esophagus that can lead to esophageal pain and affect proper swallowing.

Another complication of GERD is a condition called Barretts Esophagus . Over time, the stomach acid causes cells in the lining of the esophagus to look more like the stomach lining, says Hagan. These changes, which happen on a cellular level, may in rare cases lead to a form of esophageal cancer called esophageal adenocarcinoma. BE is more common in:

  • Caucasian males

This form of cancer appears to be on the rise, according to research published in March 2013 in the journal Cancer.

Meanwhile more recent research, published in May 2016 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, suggests that the chemical burn of stomach acid may not be the sole cause of changes to the esophageal lining. Instead, the study suggests that damage may be caused by an inflammatory response to proteins called cyotokines that are secreted in the intestinal lining of people with GERD.

If you have BE, says Hagan, your doctor may recommend surveillance endoscopy, which means he or she will perform an endoscopy periodically to see how well your esophagus is healing, secondary to drug therapy.

Options To Tame The Flames

Heartburn, Acid Reflux and GERD The Differences Decoded

Thankfully, there are a number of effective treatments for heartburn, acid reflux disease and GERD. Lifestyle changes, such as managing weight, eating smaller portions, and avoiding triggers can help prevent heartburn symptoms. Over-the-counter antacid medications also provide relief for occasional heartburn.

If you have heartburn more than twice a week, or over-the-counter heartburn remedies no longer provide relief, it may be time to see a doctor. Prescription medications can help block the production of stomach acid and strengthen a weakened esophageal sphincter muscle, giving the esophagus a chance to heal. In the most severe cases, gastrointestinal surgery may be needed.

Find a gastroenterologist who can help you decode stomach pain or ask your primary care provider for a referral.

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Home Treatments For Gerd

Consuming particular foods are understood to increase the amount of acid in the stomach, which can result in symptoms of acid reflux and heartburn. Preventing these foods may help to reduce symptoms without taking medications. Examples consist of:

  • alcohols

Making lifestyle changes such as:

  • preventing smoking
  • eating little meals rather of large ones
  • sitting upright for a minimum of 3 hours after consuming

Also, if you are obese, taking actions to decrease your weight can help. This includes healthy consuming and exercising whenever possible. If you are not exercising routinely, a good objective is to strive for 30 minutes of exercise five times a week.

For infants with GERD, a physician may advise diet changes, such as including a percentage of rice cereal to breast milk or formula to thicken it to make reflux less most likely. Holding a baby upright during feeding, and a minimum of 30 minutes after, might likewise decrease symptoms. Preventing overfeeding can help also.

In older children, a physician might suggest a removal diet of foods understood to aggravate acid reflux . Raising the head of a kids bed might likewise help prevent acid reflux symptoms.

If these procedures do not relieve a kids symptoms, a medical professional might prescribe medications that are similar to an adults but in smaller dosages. It is necessary to see your doctor when changes are not assisting or when symptoms occur twice a week or more.

What Is The Difference Between Heartburn And Acid Reflux

Heartburn is a symptom of acid reflux. Heartburn describes a feeling of burning, pain, or discomfort in the chest that can be quite uncomfortable. You also may a sour or bitter taste in the throat and mouth, and it usually occurs after you eat a big meal or when you lay down.

Not everyone with GERD will experience heartburn. Other symptoms of acid reflux include regurgitation of acid into the throat or mouth, a bitter taste in the mouth, upset stomach, belching, nausea after eating, feeling full, stomach and upper abdomen bloating, dry cough, wheezing, hoarseness, feeling of tightness in the throat, and in some people, vomiting.

Read Also: What Foods Are Good To Eat If You Have Heartburn

Theyre Not The Same Thing

On TV, in magazines, or online, ads for medications that treat acid reflux vs. heartburn vs. GERD can make these conditions seem like theyre interchangeable. Theyre not. And with so many over-the-counter treatments available, you might think your post-meal pain is something you can treat on your own. Maybe. Heres what you need to know about these three distinct issues.

Summary Gerd Vs Acid Reflux

heartburn Archives

Acid reflux has become an extremely common condition nowadays. Not adhering to a daily exercise plan, sedentary and busy lifestyle along with the fast food that people are vastly consuming have contributed to the increased incidence of this condition. When this condition progresses into a more advanced stage where there is a significant level of gastric acid reflux into the esophagus that condition is identified as GERD. This is the difference between GERD and acid reflux.

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Differences In Between Symptoms Of Heartburn Vs Acid Reflux

Heartburn, a symptom of acid reflux, and feels like a burning pain or discomfort in the chest, around the area of the heart.

Acid reflux might include heartburn symptoms. Other typical symptoms of acid reflux include:

  • A warm or acidic taste at the back of the throat
  • Sore throat
  • Nausea, a sensation of fullness.
  • Bloating.
  • Feeling tightness in the throat.
  • It might feel challenging to swallow, or you may seem like you have food stuck in your throat.

Acid reflux and heartburn might trigger chest pain, when after consuming or when resting. See your medical professional if you have any chest pain that is not identified because chest pain may signify a cardiovascular disease or another major heart condition.

If you have been diagnosed as having acid reflux by your physician or other healthcare professional, and your symptoms change all of a sudden or worsen acutely, seek healthcare right now to make certain this chest pain is not related to a cardiac arrest or other serious medical conditions.

Prevention: Keep A Food Journal

Different people react differently to foods, so it can help to detect your own patterns with a food journal. Carbonated beverages, which may distend the stomach, are a common culprit. Other factors may include alcohol, chocolate, peppermint, and the nicotine in cigarette smokeall of which may relax the sphincter, leaving acids to leak past it. Improved reflux is just one of the 15 ways your body heals after you quit smoking.

For some people, certain foods may irritate the esophagus directly, causing the sensation of heartburn, though not reflux. These include acidic foods such as citrus and tomato. Spicy foods can be problematic, too. However, says Dr. Spechler, its rare to feel the burn if you have a healthy esophagus to begin withtypically that sensation occurs with these foods because your esophagus is already sensitive as a result of acid reflux. Here are more foods that can wreak havoc on your digestive system.

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Heartburn And Acid Reflux: Like Fire And Smoke

Some LESs don’t form a tight seal when closed, and others will relax randomly when there is still work to be done. When the LES relaxes with food still in the stomach, pressure from the fullness of the stomach, physical movement or even tight-fitting clothes can force the contents back up through the relaxed valve into your esophagus.

Although used interchangeably, there is a difference between heartburn and acid reflux. So let’s clear this up:

  • Acid reflux occurs when stomach acid regurgitates up into the esophagus. Reflux is the cause of heartburn. However, you may feel no pain at all when reflux occurs.
  • Heartburn is a sensation of tightness, pain or discomfort in the middle of the chest that can — but doesn’t always — follow an occurrence of acid reflux. Heartburn is exactly what it would feel like if acid ate away at the lining of your esophagus, because that’s what’s happening.

While you can and do likely have occasional bouts of acid reflux without heartburn, you can’t have heartburn without acid reflux. Acid reflux is the cause, and heartburn is a potential sensation. Reflux: the fire heartburn: the smoke. The pain of heartburn is the irritation or damage taking place to your esophagus by the refluxed stomach acid.

Have more questions about heartburn, GERD and the digestive system? See the next page for answers.

Heartburn Or Heart Attack

Differences between acid reflux and heartburn

The symptoms of heartburn may mimic those of angina or a heart attack . If you’re uncertain, don’t hesitate to get to an emergency room for an evaluation as soon as possible.


  • Tightness, pressure, squeezing, stabbing, or dull pain, most often in the center of the chest

  • Pain that spreads to the shoulders, neck, or arms

  • Irregular or rapid heartbeat

  • Cold sweat or clammy skin

  • Lightheadedness, weakness, or dizziness

  • Nausea, indigestion, and sometimes vomiting

  • The appearance of symptoms with physical exertion or extreme stress


  • Burning chest pain that begins at the breastbone

  • Pain that moves up toward your throat but doesn’t typically radiate to your shoulders, neck, or arms

  • Sensation that food is coming back into your mouth

  • Bitter or acidic taste at the back of your throat

  • Pain that worsens when you lie down or bend over

  • The appearance of symptoms after a large or spicy meal

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Is There A Difference Between Acid Reflux And Indigestion

Quite often, the terms acid reflux and indigestion are used interchangeably without fully understanding the differences between the two.

There are in fact a number of differences between the two as indigestion is not, as many believe, just a milder form of acid reflux.

Rennie have taken the time to look into the two issues, and have put together this guide to allow you to understand the differences for yourself.

When Its An Emergency

Acid reflux, heartburn, and GERD can all be annoying, but they rarely require immediate attention. However, if you experience any of the following symptoms in combination, get help right away: chest pain, choking, trouble swallowing, weight loss, vomiting blood or a substance that looks like coffee grounds , or you have red or black stools.

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