How to Tell The Difference Between Acid Reflux and Heartburn?

Heartburn and acid reflux differ significantly. However, to understand the difference between them, you only need to learn what each of these are and how they occur. Simply put, acid reflux is a condition that is related to the backward flow of the stomach’s content from the tummy to the food pipe.

On the flip side, heartburn is not a condition in itself. Instead, it is a symptom of acid reflux. Therefore, heartburn is caused due to acid reflux. Here is an in-depth look at both the digestive concerns.

What Is Acid Reflux?

Acid reflux is also known by the name of gastroesophageal reflux or GER. It occurs when the acid in your stomach travels upward toward your food pipe or esophagus. When you eat, the food travels from your mouth to the stomach via the esophagus.

At the end of the esophagus is the sphincter value. This opening governs that the flow of food from the esophagus to the stomach and prevents the food from moving the other way around. However, when the sphincter opening is weak or loose, the stomach content can flow backward.

The stomach is lined with special cells that can tolerate the acid that is released in the stomach. This acid helps break down food. But, when the food travels backward along with the acid content, it makes contact with the esophagus.

Unlike your stomach, the food pipe is not made to tolerate the acidic content. Consequently, you feel a burning sensation. Acid reflux can also occur when there is excessive pressure on the abdomen which makes the sphincter slack.

This is the reason why pregnant women, obese individuals, and overweight people often experience acid reflux. Other reasons behind acid reflux include:

  • Smoking
  • Eating too fast
  • Overeating
  • Substantial intake of caffeine
  • Eating spicy or fatty foods
  • Significant alcohol consumption
  • Eating food just before bed.

Certain conditions can also culminate in acid reflux. These include duodenal ulcer, gastric ulcer, inflammation of the gallbladder (cholecystitis), inflammation of the pancreas (acute or chronic pancreatitis), and stomach inflammation (chronic or acute gastritis).

What is Heartburn?

Heartburn, also known as acid indigestion, is a burning sensation that approximately 60 million Americans complain about every month. The burning sensation affects your abdomen or chest and is not linked to your heart. Heartburn can often feel worse when you are lying down or sitting.

Symptoms are, particularly, worst when you go to bed after a heavy meal. As explained, heartburn is the most common symptom of acid reflux. Other symptoms of acid reflux including nausea or vomiting, bad breath, and breathing problems.

Summing Up

A look into both heartburn and acid reflux show that both are different. Acid reflux is a digestive issue that shows various symptoms including heartburn. Hence, heartburn is not a condition but a symptom.

There is another term that is frequently mistaken with these terms. It is gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). This is the word used to describe chronic or frequent acid reflux