What causes heartburn?

Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes

Heartburn, also known as acid reflux or acid indigestion, occurs when stomach acid rises into the oesophagus. It can cause a burning sensation in the chest, throat or neck, and can be confused with the pain of a heart attack, giving rise to the name Heartburn. Other possible symptoms of heartburn include an acid taste in your mouth, pain when you swallow, bloating, burping and perhaps surprisingly, wheezing.

There are several different causes of heartburn, some rather straight forward and others more complex. This short article will go through some of the causes of and possible treatments for acid reflux or heartburn.


Food triggers

If you eat too much or too late, you may experience symptoms of acid reflux. Particular foods can also trigger heartburn, such as fatty or spicy foods. Some people have triggers individual to them, such as garlic or mint. Drinks can also cause acid reflux, for example alcohol and coffee.


Being overweight

The increased pressure on your stomach from being overweight can cause stomach acid to rise through the stomach valve and into your oesophagus. Wearing clothes that are too tight can also make this happen.



Smoking can cause heartburn. The smoke causes the muscle that closes the top of the stomach to relax, which allows the stomach acid to reflux.



Many women, especially in the later stages of pregnancy suffer heartburn symptoms. The growing baby increases pressure within the abdominal cavity, which in turn can lead to heartburn.


Diagnosis of heartburn

Diagnosis can usually be made based on your symptoms. However, there are choices of medical investigations that can confirm that you have acid reflux. These include ph. monitoring, testing the pressure present in the lower part of your oesophagus and passing a scope to visually inspect the upper digestive tract. A biopsy can also be taken from the oesophagus to test for inflammation and other cell changes.


Some Suggestions to Manage Heartburn


Avoid triggers

If smoking or drinking alcohol is your trigger, cut back your consumption, or stop completely. The same goes for any trigger foods.


Lose weight

If you are overweight, increasing your exercise and reducing your calories should help you drop a few pounds and should make a difference to your heartburn symptoms.



There are medications that can help with acid reflux. Antacids do not need a prescription from your doctor and you can buy them from the pharmacy or supermarket. If these don’t work, your doctor could prescribe medicine that may help. You may be required to take medication on a long-term basis.

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