Acid Reflux & Heartburn

Understand acid reflux, and its causes and symptoms, including heartburn.

Acid Reflux & Heartburn

Definition

Acid reflux is when your stomach acid and partially digested food flow backward from your stomach into your oesophagus—the tube that connects your throat to your stomach. This backwash causes irritation and discomfort in the chest and throat, symptoms people commonly refer to as heartburn. When acid reflux occurs frequently (2 or more times a week) it can lead to a more severe form of acid reflux called gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD).

Causes

Occasional or mild acid reflux is normal and while it is not always clear why the backwash of acid occurs, some of its main triggers are:

  • Overeating or consuming fatty meals
  • Eating spicy, acidic, or citrus-based foods, tomatoes, chocolate and caffeinated or carbonated beverages
  • Lying down after eating
  • Being overweight or pregnant
  • Smoking
  • Stress and anxiety
  • Some medicines, such as anti-inflammatory painkillers (NSAIDs)
  • Hiatal hernia (when part of your stomach moves up into your chest cavity)

Severe or chronic acid reflux (GORD), is mainly caused by a persistent reflux of stomach contents into the oesophagus leading to a weakened or dysfunctional lower oesophageal sphincter (LOS).

Symptoms

Acid reflux symptoms can occur at any time but are usually worse after eating, when lying down, or when bending over.

Here are some common acid reflux symptoms to look out for:

  • Heartburn–a burning sensation in the middle of your chest, directly under your rib-cage (Epigastric pain)
  • Sour (acidic) taste in your mouth
  • Recurring cough or hiccups
  • Inflammation of the vocal cords (laryngitis) and a hoarse voice
  • Bad breath or excessive salivation
  • Bloating and feeling sick
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Regurgitation, burping, or belching

PillSorted is an NHS full-service pharmacy that delivers.