Difference Between Heartburn and Acid Reflux

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Among the most common gastrointestinal conditions that aren’t life-threatening, heartburn is probably the most unpleasant.

It is present in people of all genders and ages and can be triggered by a variety of things including overeating, alcohol, smoking as well as chronic stress. Heartburn is also one of the first signs of early pregnancy and can persist throughout the full 9 months.

While the mechanics of heartburn are quite simple (acid is driven back from the stomach up to the esophagus), the difference between this condition and acid reflux is unclear for most people.

The Heartburn No More website offers valuable info on how to detect and react to heartburn and is thus an excellent guide for those not familiar with it.

In this article, we’ll educate you more on both heartburn and acid reflux, explaining the painful symptoms as well as differences between the two conditions. So, let’s get right to it and find out what you can do to help the situation.

What Is Heartburn?

As you probably know, heartburn is a common gastrointestinal condition that is a result of relaxed stomach muscles causing stomach acid to go back up your esophagus. This results in the burning sensation in the chest area, which is why some people confuse the symptoms for those of cardiovascular disease.

The fact that heartburn is not related to your heart or blood flow doesn’t mean that you should ignore it. You probably couldn’t even if you wanted to.

Bending over or lying down will only increase the unpleasant sensation, which is why you will want to find adequate treatment. To do so, you need to recognize what has triggered the condition in the first place.

The cause is often in certain foods such as high-fat meats and cheese as well as tomatoes, onions, some spices and even chocolate and mint.

All these foods are known to increase the acid in your stomach and thus worsen the condition. Not to forget, while fruits can be beneficial for the digestive system, you are better off avoiding the citrusy ones if you suffer from heartburn.

The main symptom of heartburn, apart from the burning sensation, is a bitter or acidic taste in your mouth. If you are also suffering from nausea, vomiting, an inability to swallow as well or weight loss and appetite loss, this could be a sign of a more serious condition such as acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

What Is Acid Reflux?

As the Heartburn No More website says, acid reflux is the precursor of heartburn. As well as a burning sensation, other symptoms of acid reflux include pain when swallowing, nausea and even breathing problems.

Acid reflux happens when acid goes back into the food pipe. It’s too strong for this environment, which results in the painful symptoms mentioned above.

But how does acid reflux happen? If you have poor habits that trigger excessive acid, the food pipe muscle becomes weak and unable to counter the issue. Chronic acid reflux is called gastroesophageal reflux disease and is, in most cases, a serious condition that needs to be treated either with OTC medicine or with surgical intervention.

If acid reflux is detected in time, lifestyle changes can assist in improving your health. Such changes could include but are not limited to weight loss, quitting smoking and drinking, as well as decreasing stress through regular exercise.

What to Do About Heartburn and Acid Reflux

Now that we have determined the difference between heartburn and acid reflux, it is important to know what you can do about it.

First and foremost, detecting chronic acid reflux is not something that you can do on your own. You should consult with your doctor who can do an upper gastrointestinal biopsy and endoscopy.

During these procedures, they will take tissue from the esophageal area, as well as an upper GI x-ray to determine the potential cause. One of the most common and effective tests for such a condition is esophageal manometry. This measures the number of contractions in the food pipe and thus determines how strong the muscle is.

The reason why you can’t leave a condition such as GERD untreated is that it can become more complicated, triggering conditions such as an inflammation of food pipe (esophagitis), pneumonia or Barret’s esophagus which can lead to cancer in the long-term as cells in the food pipe change.

Difference Between Heartburn and Acid Reflux

How to Treat Acid Reflux

Before we mention some of the OTC medicine that you might take to treat acid reflux and GERD, we want to highlight the importance of making changes to your daily routine.

This involves quitting habits such as smoking or drinking and investing more time into self-care and habits that can lower stress such as yoga and meditation. By doing this, you might be able to completely treat acid reflux without the use of any medications.

Along with that, focusing on consuming whole foods such as oatmeal, green leafy vegetables, fruits excluding citrus as well as nuts and lean-protein sources can also have an impact on your condition.

Certain over-the-counter drugs such as H2 blockers, including Axid and Zancad, as well as Tums, Rolaids and Mylanta that neutralize stomach acid can help you cope with this exhausting condition.


The difference between heartburn and acid reflux is quite clear. While acid reflux is the condition that affects the esophageal muscle, heartburn is the burning sensation in the chest area that comes as a result of it.

Treating both acid reflux and GERD doesn’t have to involve harsh medicine or surgical intervention as long as you consult with your doctor and detect the condition in time.

As long as you are ready to accept the condition and make the necessary lifestyle changes, acid reflux is something that you get under control.

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