HomeExclusiveWhats The Difference Between Acid Reflux And Heartburn

Whats The Difference Between Acid Reflux And Heartburn

Heartburn Acid Reflux And Gerd Whats The Difference

What Is The Difference Between Heartburn And Acid Reflux?

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.

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 .

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.

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Otc Solution: Proton Pump Inhibitors

The next line of treatment consists of PPI drugs such as Nexium, Prevacid, and Prilosec. These drugs, which are taken instead of H2 blockers, also come in prescription strength. Like H2 blockers, they lower the amount of acid made by the stomach, but theyre a bit more potent and work over a longer period of time. Dont worryyoull still be able to digest a meal. These drugs dont completely eliminate acid, so your stomach will still be producing sufficient levels to process food, says Dr. Falk. Taken every day , theyre useful for those with full-blown GERD.

Theyre among the safest drugs available when used short term, says Dr. Spechler. The side effects we see with short-term usethings like headaches and diarrheaare mild and easily managed. However, there are potential risks for PPIs when they are taken long term. Some of the problems include magnesium and vitamin B12 deficiencies, severe diarrhea, kidney inflammation, dementia, and bone fractures. Discover how your medication could be making you depressed.

Indigestion Doesn’t Always Involve 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.

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What Can You Do If You Have Heartburn

If you experience occasional heartburn from acid reflux, try these:

  • Donât lay down after eating for two to three hours
  • Raise the head of your bed so gravity helps keep your stomach contents in your stomach
  • Eat smaller, more frequent meals instead of two to three large meals
  • Donât smoke
  • Avoid tight clothing that can put pressure on your stomach
  • Keep a food diary to pinpoint trigger foods to avoid
  • Lose extra weight
  • Use over the counter antacids if needed*

If youâre taking antacids more than two times per week, or your symptoms are getting worse, you may have GERD. Your doctor can talk to you about your history and symptoms, rule out other conditions, and determine if you have acid reflux or GERD.

Together you can come up with a plan to treat your symptoms and avoid the complications that can come from untreated GERD.

How Can My Doctor Tell If I Have Heartburn Or Acid Reflux

A medical doctor can often diagnose GERD and heartburn by your description of the symptoms your experience.

You may see a gastroenterologist, a medical specialist in disorders of the gastrointestinal tract, who may order an upper GI series. This is a series of X-rays of the esophagus, stomach, and upper part of the intestine often used to rule out other health conditions. An upper GI endoscopy, where a flexible probe with a tiny camera at the end is passed down your throat to see the esophagus. This helps diagnose how severe your acid reflux is, and can also rule out other health complications.

If your symptoms are not clearly from acid reflux, your doctor may perform other tests to rule out important conditions like heart attack, ulcers, lung problems, esophagus problems, and gastritis.

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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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Symptoms Improve Permanently On A Gluten

Heartburn and Reflux Differences

The results were as follows:

At the end of the 8-week mark, GERD symptoms were resolved in 86% of the celiac patients and 67% of the control group.

At the 6 month mark, recurrence of symptoms occurred in 20% of the celiac patients , but in the longer follow-up interval of 12, 18, and 24 months, there was no recurrence of symptoms found in any of the celiac patients. The control group, however, revealed a 30% recurrence at the 6-month mark, escalating to 60% at the 12-month mark, showing a further increase to 75% at 18 months and ending with a total of 85% at the 24-month mark.

Fascinating 80% of the celiac group who maintained a gluten-free diet remained symptom-free after 2 years, while the non-celiac group who did not follow a gluten-free diet continued to worsen the longer they were off the drug with only 15% being symptom-free. What did the researchers think about this?

Their conclusion was:

a gluten-free diet could be helpful in reducing the symptoms of GERD,

the elimination of gluten from the diet could act as a protection against GERD since gluten seems to precipitate symptoms in some people.

Based on the small rate of relapse 20% vs 75% of the celiac patients vs the control group, it makes good sense to conclude that following a gluten-free diet can help protect against GERD.

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When Acid Reflux Is Chronic: What Is Gerd

According to the ACG, GERD is acid reflux that occurs more than a couple of times per week. That said, its not the case that a person who has occasional heartburn will necessarily progress toward having GERD, says Louis Cohen, MD, gastroenterologist and assistant professor of medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. But the symptoms are the same as those of acid reflux, such as the burning feeling in your chest and the sensation that your stomach contents are in your throat. You may also have a dry cough or trouble swallowing.

Diagnosing the condition can usually be done by a primary care doctor by simply evaluating symptom frequency and severity.

We may also put a probe into a patients esophagus for a day to measure how frequently reflux happens, says Dr. Cohen. Knowing how often reflux occurs is another way to confirm a diagnosis.

Treatment for GERD starts with lifestyle modifications, adds Hagan, well ask patients to try these steps before we offer medication, although we understand that it can be hard to do some things, such as quitting smoking.

The medication most often prescribed for GERD is a proton pump inhibitor , such as:

If we determine that GERD symptoms are caused by hypersensitivity in the esophagus or excessive relaxation of the lower esophagus, we might prescribe tricyclic antidepressants or selective serotonin uptake inhibitors, adds Cohen.

Medical Treatments For Gerd

Medications are available with and without a prescription for acid reflux and GERD.

Antacids: First-line treatments for acid reflux are usually antacids. These medicines act quickly to reduce the effect of stomach acid, which can relieve symptoms. Examples of these medicines are Tums and Rolaids.

If these medicines dont relieve acid reflux or a person has GERD, other treatments can include:

H2 blockers: H2 blockers are designed to reduce the amount of acid a persons stomach produces. Sometimes taking these medicines with antacids can help. Examples of these medicines include cimetidine and famotidine .

Proton pump inhibitors: These medications work longer than H2 blockers to reduce acid in the stomach. They can also help heal the stomach lining. Examples include:

  • esomeprazole
  • lansoprazole
  • pantoprazole

Prokinetics: These are medications like metoclopramide . There is controversy as to whether these medications benefit people with GERD. Many new prokinetics have been removed from the market due to serious side effects .

If medications dont reduce a persons acid reflux symptoms, a doctor may recommend surgery to avoid further damage to the esophagus and stomach. One surgical approach is known as Nissen fundoplication. This involves wrapping a portion of your stomach around the esophagus to strengthen the LES.

  • difficulty breathing

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Whats The Difference Between Heartburn And Acid Reflux Additional Causes

Acid reflux is when acid it sent back up to the esophagus, causing pain and discomfort. GERD is the chronic condition of acid reflux and heartburn is an accompanying symptom of both. Because of this link, many of the same causes can trigger pain and discomfort.

The stomach is built to withstand acid. The food pipe is not, and when acid rises into it, a person experiences burning pain. The muscle at the end of the food pipe is called the lower esophageal sphincter. It can weaken or relax, and potentially cause acid reflux, for several reasons.

For example, high amounts of pressure on the abdomen can cause the sphincter to grow slack. For this reason, acid reflux is common in people who are overweight, obese, or pregnant.

Besides eating, drinking, and unhealthy lifestyle habits, numerous medications can also trigger acid reflux, including asthma medication, high blood pressure medication, antidepressants, antihistamines, pain relievers, and sedatives.

How Is Gerd Diagnosed

The typical tests that your doctor will use to help diagnose GERD include:

24-hour impedance-probe study: This study involves inserting a flexible tub into your nose and advancing it into the esophagus. The tube has sensors that can detect if acid is refluxing past the esophagus.

Upper endoscopy: This test involves using a special tube with a camera on its end. When youre sedated, the tube can be passed from your mouth into your stomach and part of your small intestine. The upper endoscopy test can help a doctor identify any signs of damage, tumors, inflammation, or ulcers in these areas. Your doctor will usually take a tissue sample known as a biopsy.

Acid from the stomach can damage the lining of the esophagus if GERD is left untreated. This can cause:

The acid can also cause a change in the cells in the esophagus over time. This is called Barretts esophagus. About 10 to 15 percent of people with GERD will develop this condition. Barretts esophagus increases your risk for a type of esophageal cancer known as adenocarcinoma. Experts believe that most cases of this type of esophageal cancer start from cells within Barretts tissue.

Eating certain foods are known to increase the amount of acid in the stomach, which can lead to symptoms of acid reflux and heartburn. Avoiding these foods may help to reduce symptoms without taking medications. Examples include:

  • alcoholic beverages

Making lifestyle changes such as:

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Symptoms Of Acid Reflux

Acid reflux means that stomach acid gets into the esophagus or even the throat, causing irritation in these sensitive tissues. The irritation can lead to a number of issues or symptoms. These include sore throat, coughing, sour or bitter taste in the throat or mouth, and a burning pain in the chest otherwise called heartburn.

While an occasional episode is normal, if it occurs more than twice a week, it is said to be chronic and may lead to gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD. In fact, recurrent acid reflux is a major symptom of GERD.

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The Difference Between Acid Reflux Vs Heartburn Vs Gerd

So the answer to the differences is that acid reflux is what causes that feeling of heartburn. If it goes on long enough or happens frequently and interferes with sleep or other aspects of your life, you have GERDthe chronic version of acid reflux. These are the 6 silent signs you have acid reflux.

Q: Are Heartburn And Acid Reflux The Same Thing What About Gerd

Differences between acid reflux and heartburn

A: They are different but related. It starts with the esophagus. The esophagus is made up of predominantly smooth muscle. It extends from the throat down through the chest cavity and, when it gets past the abdomen, joins up with the stomach. When you swallow, the esophagus opens and then squeezes food down.

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At the very bottom of theesophagus, there is a valve that separates it from the stomach. That valve shouldnormally be closed. When you swallow, it opens so that food can pass through,and then it closes again. Acid reflux is a disorder that occurs when that valveopens when its not supposed to, so stomach contents can flow backward from the stomach into the esophagus and causesymptoms.

Now, normal individuals can have up to an hour of reflux per day and not feel it. But if people have problematic reflux, it can cause heartburn, which is a burning thats felt mid-chest, below the sternum, especially after meals or at night when you lie down. So heartburn is a symptom of acid reflux. Acid reflux can also cause regurgitation.

GERD stands for gastroesophageal reflux disease. Its a more severe form of acid reflux where the stomach contents flowing back up into the esophagus becomes problematic. It can also cause a cough or the feeling that theres a lump in the back of your throat.

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What’s The Difference Between Heartburn And Acid Reflux

Sometimes after you eat, you might experience a painful, burning sensation in your chest. It feels like someone has run a knife through you just beneath the sternum and is taking their time twisting it around.

Although it can feel like your heart is being squeezed in the palm of a giant, what you’re feeling is actually the result of what happens when contents of the stomach — recently swallowed foods and liquids, bile and stomach acid — climb up the esophagus.

When food enters your mouth, digestion begins. Saliva begins to break down the starch contained in your food into smaller molecules. Food is then carried down the esophagus into the stomach, where glands in the lining of the stomach create more digestive products, one of which is stomach acid.

The esophagus is a long tube long for adults) that connects your throat to your stomach. When you swallow food, you start a wavelike motion in the muscles that line the esophagus, and this motion carries food down toward your stomach. When food reaches the end of your esophagus, it must pass through a ring of muscle — the lower esophageal sphincter — in order to reach the stomach. When objects approach the LES from above, this valve opens inward to allow entry into the stomach. Once the objects have passed through the valve, the valve closes, and pressure exerted on the valve from the stomach only further seals the one-way valve. However, not all valves function perfectly all the time .