Symptoms of heartburn can be painful and unpleasant. Our digestion expert Ali discusses some of the well-known symptoms of heartburn as well as some of the longer-term consequences of these.
Alison Cullen Nutritional Practitioner, BA (Hons), DN, DNT (Distinction) @AVogelUK Ask Ali
An introduction to the symptoms of heartburn
Heartburn is often a result of indigestion and acid reflux and is the pain you experience as the acidic contents of your stomach make contact with your oesophagus.
But what exactly are the symptoms of heartburn and are there any further consequences of these that you need to be aware of?
Typical symptoms of heartburn
Some typical symptoms of heartburn include:
A pain in your chest - As the name suggests, heartburn can be described as a burning sensation and often occurs soon after eating. Your oesophagus doesn’t have a protective mucous layer as your stomach is equipped with, so, if the contents of your stomach make it past the LOS into your oesophagus, the acidic nature of your gastric juice can make you quite uncomfortable. Due to the location of the burning pain (just under the breastbone), in some cases this is mistaken for heart problems, hence the name. It is important to watch out for other symptoms in order to make the distinction and be sure to get it checked out if you are in any doubt
Pain travelling upwards towards your throat – the pain, although normally starting in the middle of the chest, may radiate further up the body. Regurgitation and an acidic taste in the mouth is a common symptom of acid reflux. This is the result of the acidic contents of the stomach travelling all the way up the oesophagus towards your mouth. The pain can spread as a result of this too and a sore, irritated throat may also be a result
Belching or hiccups - as the acid irritates your oesophagus you may experience hiccupping or belching
Nausea or vomiting – the pain associated with heartburn can be severe which can make you feel quite ill, especially if you aren’t used to it or are worried as to where it’s coming from. As heartburn is normally a result of acid reflux, retching and even vomiting can be induced if the contents of the stomach start rising towards the mouth. Vomiting is often the result of a protect mechanism from an irritated stomach in a bid to dispel its contents.
What are the consequences of my symptoms?
Although the symptoms of heartburn are often relatively short-lived and can be treated through a variety of means, if these symptoms are recurrent or severe it is possible there is a longer-term issue apparent
GORD – recurrent acid reflux and heartburn may be a sign of gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD). This occurs when the functioning of the LOS is permanently impaired and as a result of this, heartburn is a more regular occurrence. GORD can be troublesome but is also treatable via self-help tips (much like heartburn). A range of conventional medicines or surgery options are also available which your doctor will describe to you
Gastritis – gastritis is inflammation of the stomach. Heartburn is a common symptom of gastritis as your stomach struggles to process your food properly. Once the gastritis is treated the associated heartburn should tail off
Bacterial overgrowth – heartburn often signals that the stomach is struggling somehow, whether it’s what you’ve eaten, how you ate it, how much you consumed or a problem with the functioning of the stomach itself. In many cases, despite the underlying cause, your stomach may empty having not properly digested the food within it. If this is the case, food may travel partially undigested into the large intestine where it is subject to fermentation by the natural bacteria residing there. This in turn provides fuel for the bad bacteria in your gut and they can over-multiply. Problems such as indigestion and bacterial overgrowth are very often thought to give rise to food intolerance and a whole host of other health issues.
Want to improve your digestion? Get involved as our Digestion Advisor Ali Cullen takes you through her 5 step plan to improve your digestion and get problem symptoms, from bloating to acid reflux, under control.