What is Heartburn, Acid Reflux, and GERD?
Heartburn, which is also known as acid indigestion, occurs when the esophagus becomes irritated by stomach acid, which produces a burning sensation below the chest bone or upper abdomen, are the most common symptoms of acid reflux and GERD. Because the symptoms of heartburn are similar to those of a heart attack and heart disease, hence the name, it can often be mistaken for one of the two. Acid reflux, sometimes also referred to as "heartburn," occurs as a result of stomach acid from the stomach entering the esophagus. Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) is chronic or severe acid reflux or heartburn, which causes inflammation of the esophagus.Common Symptoms of Acid Reflux, Heartburn, and GERD
Heartburn and acid reflux share common symptoms, which include:
- Burning below the chest bone or in the upper abdomen
- Stomach discomfort
- Nausea after eating
- Stomach bloating or fullness
- Sore throat
- Hiccups that don't go away
GERD is a severe form of heartburn and acid reflux, may exhibit similar symptoms but occur more intense, for longer periods or frequent intervals, and tend to worsen at night. Some common symptoms of GERD include:
Common Causes of Heartburn, Acid Reflux, and GERD
- Acid taste in the mouth
- Chronic, dry cough especially at night
- Sudden increase in saliva
- Feeling as if there is a lump in your throat
- Bad breath
- Breathing problems or worsening of asthma
- Chest pain
One of the most common causes of heartburn, acid reflux, and GERD is dietary and lifestyle choices. Certain foods and beverages, including fried foods, fatty foods, garlic, onions, chocolate, coffee, peppermint, tomatoes, citrus fruits, and drinks can trigger heartburn and reflux, as do certain medications. Too much food in the stomach or excess pressure on the stomach, such as from pregnancy, obesity, and constipation
can also trigger heartburn and reflux. Stress and lack of sleep are also major contributors of heartburn and reflux. Poor sleep habits can increase acid production, which can cause heartburn. Smoking is also a common cause of heartburn and reflux because it relaxes the lower esophageal sphincter, or LES, which stimulates stomach acid.
Eating foods that are free of enzymes can also lead to heartburn. Enzymes help break down food before it enters the stomach, making it easier to digest. Consuming foods that are free of enzymes, such as processed and prepackaged foods, cause your digestive system to perform harder because it has to break down larger masses of food. Not chewing your food properly, or eating too quickly can also cause heartburn. Because digestion begins in the mouth, food must be thoroughly chewed to begin its breakdown; otherwise, the acid will be suppressed, and foods won't be broken down properly.