Explainer Difference between heartburn and acid reflux

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Understanding the differences between heartburn acid reflux and gastroesophageal reflux disease involves understanding the links between them.

According to the American College of Gastroenterology heartburn is a common digestive complaint in the United States affecting more than 60 million Americans each month.

Heartburn is not a condition on its own and it has nothing to do with the heart. Instead it is a symptom of acid reflux.

If symptoms of acid reflux occur frequently it can indicate that a person has gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

Distinguishing between heartburn acid reflux and GERD may be hard because they may all feel the same in the moment. However, understanding the differences can help a person find the right treatment.

Acid reflux is sometimes called gastroesophageal reflux or GER. It occurs when stomach acid travels up the food pipe to the mouth.

This can happen when the muscle at the bottom of the food pipe which acts as a gateway to the stomach becomes weak or loose.

Heartburn is a burning sensation in the chest or abdomen and it has nothing to do with the heart. People often feel heartburn behind the breastbone and after eating. It can get worse when sitting or lying down.

Heartburn is the most common symptom of acid reflux though it does not appear in every case.

Acid reflux also causes the following symptoms bad breath nausea or vomiting difficulty or pain when swallowing and breathing problems.