top of page

Heartburn vs. Acid Reflux Heartburn vs. Acid Reflux vs. GERD


The terms heartburn, GERD, and acid reflux are often used interchangeably. Nonetheless, they in fact have very different meanings.


Acid reflux is a very common medical condition that may have different levels or seriousness.


Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is the chronic, more severe version of acid reflux.


Heartburn is a symptom of both GERD and acid reflux.


What Is Heartburn?


Heartburn is a mild to severe pain in the chest. It often occurs after eating. It can be felt as a burning or tightening sensation. Bending over or lying down can make it feel worse. Sitting or standing up can ease the sensation (simple laws of gravity).


The term “heartburn” is rather misleading. This condition has absolutely nothing to do with the heart. Heartburn occurs in the digestive system. Specifically, it occurs in the oesophagus. It can sometimes be mistaken for heart attack pain. 


Heartburn is a very common condition. A quarter of all adults are said to experience heartburn at least once a month.

You may be able to manage your heartburn by:


  • losing weight

  • stop smoking

  • reducing the consumption of fatty foods

  • avoiding spicy or acidic foods


Mild, infrequent heartburn can also be treated with medications like antacids. However, you should consult your healthcare practitioner if you take antacids frequently. Heartburn may be a symptom of a more severe problem like acid reflux from GERD. 

For natural treatment and methods for prevention of heartburn click here


What Is Acid Reflux?


A circular muscle called the lower oesophageal sphincter (LES) lies between the oesophagus and the stomach. This muscle is in charge of closing your oesophagus after food passes to the stomach. If this muscle is weak or doesn’t close properly, the acid from your stomach can escape backward into the oesophagus. This is known as acid reflux.


The lining of the oesophagus is more delicate than the lining of the stomach. Therefore, acid in the oesophagus causes a burning sensation in the chest. This sensation is known as heartburn.


What Is GERD?


GERD is the chronic form of acid reflux. It’s diagnosed when acid reflux occurs more than twice a week or causes swelling in the oesophagus. Pain from GERD unlikely to be relieved with antacids or other over-the-counter medication.


Symptoms of GERD include:

  • heartburn

  • feeling like stomach contents have come back up to the throat or mouth (regurgitation)

  • chest pain

  • dry cough

  • asthma

  • trouble swallowing


Symptoms of GERD may disrupt daily life. Fortunately, they can usually be controlled with treatment. Options include both medications and lifestyle changes such as:

  • diet modification and weight loss

  • smoking cessation


Medications for GERD generally try to reduce the amount of acid in the stomach. They may not be effective for all patients. Some people need surgery to help strengthen the LES.


Consequences of GERD

Acid from the stomach can damage the lining of the oesophagus if GERD is left untreated. This can cause bleeding, ulcers and scarring.  The acid can also cause a change over time in the cells of the oesophagus. This is called Barrett’s oesophagus. Barrett’s oesophagus increases your risk of oesophageal cancer. However, oesophageal cancer is very rare, even in people with Barrett’s. 



bottom of page