What Is Heartburn?

Heartburn is a common digestive problem caused by acid reflux. Acid reflux occurs when stomach acid flows back up into the esophagus, resulting in a burning sensation in the chest or throat. Heartburn may also be accompanied by a sour taste in the back of the throat or a feeling of belching.

Causes of Heartburn

Heartburn is often caused by the foods and drinks you consume. Certain foods and drinks contain ingredients that relax the muscle at the lower part of your esophagus, allowing acid to flow back up. Common culprits include spicy foods, fried foods, tomato-based sauces, citrus fruits and juices, garlic, onions, caffeinated beverages, and certain alcohols. Stress and smoking can also lead to heartburn.

Signs and Symptoms of Heartburn

Typical signs and symptoms of heartburn include a burning sensation in the center of the chest, feeling as if food is coming back up, sore throat, hoarseness, coughing, bloating, and chest pain.

Risk Factors for Heartburn

  • Eating large meals
  • Eating close to bedtime
  • Certain medications, such as ibuprofen and steroids
  • Pregnancy

Tips for Managing Heartburn

To help manage and avoid heartburn, try the following tips:

  • Eat 5-6 small meals throughout the day instead of three large meals.
  • Avoid certain trigger foods, such as spicy foods, fatty foods, and citrus.
  • Don't eat close to bedtime.
  • If you smoke, quit.
  • Raise the head of your bed 6 to 8 inches to allow gravity to help keep stomach acid in the stomach.