When we feel that uncomfortable burning sensation in our chest, we assume that it’s heartburn or acid reflux. However, it could also be GERD. It’s always better to know the difference between heartburn and GERD.
GERD or Gastro Esophageal Reflux Disease is a disorder of the stomach. It occurs when the Lower Esophageal Sphincter (LES) relaxes. The LES is the muscle located between the esophagus and the stomach. When the LES relaxes or loosens more than it should, it causes the acid from the stomach to flow back into the esophagus, causing a burning sensation. When this occurs on a regular basis (over 2 times a week), it might be an indication of GERD.
Heartburn (also called acid reflux) is the burning sensation in your chest or upper portion of the stomach. It is only one of the symptoms of GERD. You can read about what causes acid reflux here.
Symptoms of GERD
Some of the other symptoms of GERD include:
- Painful swallowing
- Bad breath
- Dry or persistent cough
- A lumpy sensation in the throat
- Regurgitation of food and/or stomach acid
Night-time heartburn could also result in poor sleep or a disturbed sleep cycle. For a complete list of symptoms, please see Symptoms of Acid Reflux.
Heartburn is a symptom of GERD, but it can occur due to other underlying conditions too.
Let’s Look at Heartburn from Two Points-of-View to Understand it Better.
Heartburn That is Related to GERD
Typically, heartburn that is related to GERD usually occurs right after a heavy meal. Lying down right after a meal can worsen the feeling, particularly so if you lie on your right side. This happens because the stomach is titled to the right in our body and lying down on that side, when the LES is loose, can cause the acid to come out and burn the throat. Bending over or lifting something heavy can also contribute to this burning sensation. Heartburn related to GERD can be accompanied by bloating of the stomach, as well as regurgitation (which is also experienced as a “wet burp”).
Heartburn That is Not Related to GERD
Sometimes, what we experience as heartburn could be a symptom of some other health condition. Some of them are:
- Heart attack
- Chest-wall pain
- Pulmonary embolus
In such cases, there would be one or more symptoms accompanying the heartburn, such as breathlessness, a sharp shooting pain in the chest, fever, dizziness, etc. Often, the heartburn will persist, irrespective of the antacid remedies being administered.
For immediate remedies for heartburn relief, please see Acid Reflux Remedies to Support Healing.
Do remember that in case heartburn persists in spite of trying various remedies, it may indicate either GERD or some other serious condition. It is always advisable to consult your doctor in such cases.