GERD, Acid Reflux, And Heartburn: Defining The Differences
- Heartburn, which actually has nothing to do with the heart, is caused by stomach acid irritating the esophagus. This is the result of a failure of the Lower Esophageal Sphincter (LES). Your LES is meant to prevent stomach acid and food particles from backing into your esophagus - when it fails to close or tighten, the result is heartburn.
- The difference between Acid Reflux and Heartburn is in the means. While both conditions involve stomach acid burning the esophagus, Acid Reflux is the result of stomach acid being 'refluxed' (flowing backward) into the esophagus. Just like heartburn, this results in that familiar burning sensation.
- If Acid Reflux or Heartburn persist, they can eventually become chronic. This condition is called GERD (Gastro-Esophageal Reflux Disease). Typically, GERD requires indefinite treatment and consistent supervision by a doctor.
Almost everyone suffers from heartburn at some point in their lives. But if heartburn is continually occuring, it may be a sign of a more serious condition. You should consult your doctor, and consider your lifestyle options. Changing your diet might give you some relief. If the symptoms occur more that two or three days a week even after changing your diet and seeking treatment and seem to disrupt your normal activities you could be diagnosed with acid reflux. If it became chronic you could be diagnosed with GERD which is the most serious of the conditions and might require immediate and prolonged treatment. The burning pain is in the center of the chest near the breastbone. The pain can last for a short amount of time if you have heartburn and can linger indefinitely if you have GERD. It seems that lying down can make the symptoms worse.
Not everyone who has GERD has heartburn, which also means that not everyone who has heartburn has GERD. There are other conditions that might be present such as; hoarseness, chronic throat clearing, persistent cough, and sore throat. There are some contributing factors that we should mention. Too much food in the stomach and too much pressure is one of them. Also there are some foods that relax the LES. Tomatoes, citrus fruits, garlic, onions are just a few. Foods that contain a lot of fat, either animal or vegetable, often cause heartburn. Stress increases acid and can also be a contributing factor. As Americans we love our high fat diets. We all love to over indulge at times. We all have probably experienced heartburn at least a few times. Some of us have had to seek medical help to relieve our symptoms. Some of us seek natural remedies to help support a healthy stomach acid balance.