Health A-Z

What Are the Differences Between Heartburn and Acid Reflux?

Acid reflux can be a very tricky disease since it can pop up out of the blue and take you completely by surprise.

Many of us experience the occasional heartburn (a burning pain or discomfort that may move from your stomach to your abdomen or chest, or even up into your throat) after eating something.

Or sometimes we can even experience regurgitation (a sour or bitter-tasting acid backing up into your throat or mouth).

And of course, all of us have dealt with the following:

  • Bloating
  • Burping
  • Nausea
  • Hiccups that don’t let up

Dealing with such symptoms once in a while it’s pretty normal, a certain change in your diet or some reaction to a medication (for example a painkiller for headaches after eating a large meal).

But, if you have all of the above symptoms more than once a week paired with at least one of the following:

  • Bloody or black stools or bloody vomiting
  • Dysphagia (a narrowing of your esophagus, which creates the sensation of food being stuck in your throat)
  • Weight loss for no known reason
  • Wheezing, dry cough, hoarseness, or a chronic sore throat

… then I would strongly advise you to visit your doctor because you might be suffering from acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease(GERD).

Causes of GERD

Acid reflux disease could be the cause of a stomach abnormality called hiatal hernia.

Normally, the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) – the valve at the entrance of your stomach – closes as soon as food passes through it.

When this valve doesn’t close all the way or if it opens too often, the acid produced by your stomach can move up into your esophagus.

This can cause symptoms such as a burning chest pain called heartburn.

But that might not be the only reason why you suffer from it.

Common GERD risk factors are:

  • Being pregnant.
  • Snacking close to bedtime.
  • Being overweight or obese.
  • Eating large meals or lying down right after a meal.
  • Eating a heavy meal and lying on your back or bending over at the waist.
  • Drinking certain beverages, such as alcohol, carbonated drinks, coffee, or tea.
  • Taking aspirin, ibuprofen, certain muscle relaxers, or blood pressure medications.
  • Eating certain foods, such as citrus, tomato, chocolate, mint, garlic, onions, or spicy or fatty foods.

So what can you do?

It’s best to discuss with a gastroenterologist if you notice acid reflux symptoms because he will determine how serious your condition is.

Home remedies can help alleviate the occasional heartburn episode, as well as some cases of GERD, but you still need to discuss with your doctor if your natural remedies enhance his medical treatment plan or not.

Don’t take your GERD condition lightly because it can put you at risk of:

  • Ulcers

or

  • Esophageal cancer

However, there are a few things that you can do to…

Effectively minimize the occurrence of your GERD episode:

1. The “How, What, When” Formula

How you eat.

Take smaller bites and eat slowly, giving your stomach time to digest and without giving it an excuse to pump out excess acid.

What you eat.

Avoid the foods that trigger heartburn, like:

  • spicy foods
  • tomato sauce and other tomato-based products
  • high-fat foods (fast food products and greasy foods)
  • fried foods
  • citrus fruit juices
  • soda
  • caffeine
  • chocolate
  • garlic
  • onions
  • mint
  • alcohol

When you eat.

Don’t eat within the 3-4 hours’ time frame before bed.

Lying down increases the likelihood of acid sneaking into your esophagus.

Also once you do go to bed, try elevating your head with some extra pillows to avoid nighttime heartburn.


2. Quit smoking.

This bad habit not only lowers your overall immunity, but it weakens the muscles of the LES (the valve responsible for keeping the stomach acids in place).

Smoking puts you at risk of experiencing more frequent heartburn episodes.

Secondhand smoke is just as dangerous if you’re fighting acid reflux or GERD.


3. Avoid tight clothing.

If you experience GERD symptoms, I warmly advise you to NOT wear clothes that are too tight because they increase acid reflux episodes.

So, loosen up!

Especially if you use tight bottoms and belts – both put pressure on your abdomen, thus contributing to your heartburn risk.

Acid reflux is a condition that can be controlled if you incorporate the right healthy habits into your life.

Some other time, I will share with you a few natural remedies that will prove to be great allies in your battle with GERD.

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