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Heartburn: 6 Common Causes & Symptoms of Heartburn

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The unpleasant burning sensations you sometimes get in the chest might be a sign of heartburn. Discover the other symptoms & what might be causing them.

If you’re feeling a burning pain in your chest and a bitter taste in your mouth, you might be experiencing heartburn, a fairly common problem caused by food traveling from your stomach back to your oesophagus. If you want to find out more about what causes heartburn and whether your symptoms could mean you’re affected, keep reading our article.

What is heartburn?

What is heartburnSometimes stomach acid can travel back towards your throat causing a burning sensation in the chest. It usually appears after you’ve eaten and especially if you’re bending over or laying down suddenly. This sort of movement can make the food contents in your stomach start travelling in the wrong direction, towards your throat.

The burning sensation is caused by stomach acid. This digestive fluid is designed to break down food, but it’s not meant to travel back to the oesophagus and throat. Because these sections of the food pipe lack the stomach’s special lining, we feel a sensation of burning pain whenever the acid gets propelled upwards through the digestive system.

What are the symptoms of heartburn?

Luckily heartburn can be easily recognised. The most common symptoms of heartburn include:

  • A burning pain in your chest that can extend to your throat
  • Bitter taste in your mouth
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Coughing
  • Hoarse voice

If you experience these symptoms quite often, you should talk to your GP. Frequent heartburn might be a sign of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), a condition that can damage your oesophagus. Your doctor will recommend medication to help keep the symptoms in check.

What are the causes of heartburn?

Symptoms of heartburn

It’s not always immediately obvious why heartburn appears. The burning sensation can seem like it started from nowhere, especially if you’re not affected by any other underlying conditions. If it’s only an occasional occurrence there’s usually nothing to worry about. But sometimes, heartburn should be investigated further, in case there is a root cause that needs to be addressed. Here are a few factors that might lead to heartburn:

Particular foods and drinks

Lying down after eating can lead to heartburn. But the food choices you make can make increase the chances of this happening. Certain foods and drinks are notorious for triggering heartburn symptoms. These include:

  • Spicy food
  • Fizzy drinks
  • Coffee
  • Fatty meals
  • Tomatoes
  • Citrus fruits

It’s a good idea to start out by removing some of these foods and drinks from your diet and see if the symptoms diminish as a result. You can find out more about the foods that cause heartburn with our article.

Obesity

Being overweight can also be a cause of heartburn. This is because the extra pressure on your stomach might push the food contents up towards the oesophagus, causing the signature burning pain that accompanies heartburn.

Pregnancy

Heartburn during pregnancy

Heartburn is sometimes a symptom of pregnancy. The hormonal changes taking place in the body during this time can relax muscles, including the musculature that keeps the valve between stomach and oesophagus shut. Plus, the growing baby can put extra pressure on the stomach, which will also lead to the familiar burning pain sensation in the chest. No wonder heartburn is very common during pregnancy.

Stress

Stress may be a cause of heartburn as well. During stressful times our muscles get more tense and this can affect the muscles around our stomach too. The increased pressure might lead to food contents traveling up towards the throat. Sometimes, stress can make the stomach produce more acid, therefore making acid reflux likelier to happen. So, managing stress levels can be helpful when dealing with symptoms of heartburn.

Smoking

Nicotine can relax the muscles that keep the acid in the stomach. When that happens, the valve connecting the stomach and the oesophagus won’t shut properly and acid can start moving towards the throat.

Illnesses

Hiatus hernia is a stomach condition that can also cause acid to travel upwards. However, it is more common if you’re over 50. The symptoms are similar to heartburn: a burning feeling in your chest, difficulty swallowing and feeling sick.

Fortunately, there are things you can do to alleviate the symptoms of heartburn, including eating smaller meals or losing weight. Over-the-counter medications such as antacids can provide some relief as well. Your doctor will be able to recommend the best course of action depending on your lifestyle and the causes of your heartburn. If you want to find out more about the remedies for heartburn, check out our handy article, next.

Sources:

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/heartburn-and-acid-reflux/

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/hiatus-hernia/

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heartburn/symptoms-causes/syc-20373223

https://www.healthline.com/health/heartburn#causes

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/9151

https://www.cedars-sinai.org/blog/what-causes-heartburn-and-acid-reflux.html

https://www.webmd.com/heartburn-gerd/guide/understanding-heartburn-basics

https://www.webmd.com/heartburn-gerd/guide/reflux-disease-gerd-1

https://www.nhs.uk/pregnancy/related-conditions/common-symptoms/indigestion-and-heartburn/

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/acid-reflux-and-anxiety#whats-the-link

https://www.webmd.com/heartburn-gerd/features/heartburn-tobacco-connection

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