Difference Between Acid Reflux and Heartburn (With Table)

The terms acid reflux and heartburn are interrelated. But these two terms, though related, are quite different from each other. For understanding the difference between heartburn and acid reflux one needs to first understand the links between these two terms. Acid reflux and heartburn occur due to the rise of stomach acid into the esophagus with food.

Acid Reflux vs Heartburn  

The difference between acid reflux and heartburn is that, a very common medical condition that can be severe to mild. Acid reflux happens when acids from the stomach rise into the esophagus. On the other hand, Heartburn occurs as a symptom of acid reflux. Heartburn has no connection with the heart, but it is named like that as the esophagus lies just behind the heart where the burning sensation of heartburn is felt.

Acid reflux refers to a chronic disease that occurs when bile or stomach acid flows into the food pipe irritating the lining. Acid reflux occurs when acid from the stomach flows up into the esophagus, into the gullet. Gullet helps to move down the food from the mouth. A common cause of acid reflux is hiatal hernia.

Heartburn is a sensation of burning behind the breastbone or the center of the chest. It is a symptom of several health conditions like GERD and acid reflux. The burning sensation generally lasts for a few minutes to a few hours. Heartburn can be treated at home with the help of over-the-counter medications.

Comparison Table Between Acid Reflux and Heartburn

Parameters of ComparisonAcid RefluxHeartburn
DefinitionAcid reflux is a chronic disease where the acid from the stomach flows up into the esophagus, into the gullet, causing a burning sensation in the middle of the chest.
             
             
Heartburn is a symptom of acid reflux. It is a sensation of burning behind the breastbone or the center of the chest. 
SymptomsThe symptoms of acid reflux are heartburn. Other symptoms of heartburn are bloating, sore throat, nausea, abdominal pain, acidic or warm taste at the back throat, and so on.
             
The symptom of heartburn is a burning sensation behind the breastbone or the middle of the chest. The burning sensation makes an uncomfortable burning sensation around the heart.
CausesCommon causes of acid reflux are obesity, smoking, eating fried and fatty foods, eating a large amount of food, drinking alcohol, diabetes, pregnancy, and hiatal hernia.
           
Common causes of heartburn are smoking, drinking alcohol, diabetes, obesity, eating a large amount of food, eating fried and fatty food. 
Aggravating foodsFatty and fried foods, onions and garlic, mint, spicy foods, chocolate, acidic foods like tomatoes and citrus fruits can cause acid reflux.
                        
Spicy foods, chocolate, fatty, and fried foods, mint, onions, and garlic can cause heartburn.
TreatmentAcid reflux is treated by modifying the diet, losing weight, taking medicines like antidiarrhoeal, a proton-pump inhibitor, and antacid.
           
To prevent heartburn, lying down after eating must be avoided for at least two hours. Avoiding chocolates, fatty and fried foods is important to prevent heartburn.

What is Acid Reflux?

Acid reflux is a chronic disease where bile or stomach acid flows up into the esophagus, into the gullet, causing a burning sensation in the middle of the chest. The symptoms of acid reflux are heartburn. Other symptoms of heartburn are bloating, sore throat, nausea, abdominal pain, acidic or warm taste at the back throat, and so on.

There is a valve called the lower esophageal sphincter in the entrance of the stomach which closes as soon as food passes through it to the stomach. If the LES (Lower esophageal sphincter) opens too often or doesn’t close properly acid produced in the stomach flows up into the esophagus causing acid reflux.

Common causes of acid reflux are obesity, smoking, eating fried and fatty foods, eating a large amount of food, drinking alcohol, diabetes, pregnancy, and hiatal hernia. For preventing acid reflux Fatty and fried foods, onions and garlic, mint, spicy foods, chocolate, acidic foods like tomatoes and citrus fruits need to be avoided. 

Acid reflux is treated by modifying the diet, losing weight, taking medicines like antidiarrhoeal, a proton-pump inhibitor, antacids. It’s better to take antacids that contain both aluminum hydroxide and magnesium hydroxide. If antacids don’t help to prevent acid reflux doctors may prescribe other medications like H2 blockers, foaming agents, prokinetics.

What is Heartburn?

Heartburn is a symptom of acid reflux, GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease). It is an uncomfortable burning sensation in the middle of the chest that can move up to the throat and neck. During heartburn, there can also be a sour or bitter taste in the back throat. Heartburn often feels worse after a heavy meal or lying on the bed soon after eating.

The symptom of heartburn is a burning sensation behind the breastbone or the middle of the chest. The burning sensation makes an uncomfortable burning sensation around the heart. Common causes of heartburn are smoking, drinking alcohol, diabetes, obesity, eating a large amount of food, drinking citrus juices, eating fried and fatty food. Spicy foods, chocolate, fatty, and fried foods, mint, onions, and garlic can cause heartburn.

Heartburn is generally treatable at home with the help of over-the-counter medications. To prevent heartburn, lying down after eating must be avoided for at least two hours. Avoiding chocolates, fatty and fried foods is important to prevent heartburn.

Occasional heartburn is very common. But having severe heartburn regularly can be an indicator of GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) which is a chronic acid reflux condition. In this case, healthcare providers need to prescribe treatments to cure this.

Main Differences Between Acid Reflux and Heartburn

  1. Acid reflux is a chronic disease where the acid from the stomach flows up into the esophagus, into the gullet, causing a burning sensation in the middle of the chest. Heartburn is a symptom of acid reflux. It is a sensation of burning in behind the breastbone or the centre of the chest.
  2. The symptoms of acid reflux are heartburn. Other symptoms of heartburn are bloating, sore throat, nausea, abdominal pain, acidic or warm taste at the back throat, and so on. The symptom of heartburn is a burning sensation behind the breastbone or the middle of the chest. The burning sensation makes an uncomfortable burning sensation around the heart.
  3. Common causes of acid reflux are obesity, smoking, eating fried and fatty foods, eating a large amount of food, drinking alcohol, diabetes, pregnancy, and hiatal hernia. Common causes of heartburn are smoking, drinking alcohol, diabetes, obesity, eating a large amount of food, eating fried and fatty food.
  4. Fatty and fried foods, onions and garlic, mint, spicy foods, chocolate, acidic foods like tomatoes and citrus fruits can cause acid reflux. Spicy foods, chocolate, fatty, and fried foods, mint, onions, and garlic can cause heartburn.
  5. Acid reflux is treated by modifying the diet, losing weight, taking medicines like antidiarrhoeal, a proton-pump inhibitor, and antacid. To prevent heartburn, lying down after eating must be avoided for at least two hours. Avoiding chocolates, fatty and fried foods is important to prevent heartburn.

Conclusion

The terms acid reflux and heartburn are interrelated. Acid reflux is the cause, while heartburn is the symptom. In both cases, fatty and fried foods, chocolates, alcohol, smoking, acidic foods like citrus fruits and tomatoes need to be avoided.

The main difference between acid reflux and heartburn is that Acid reflux is a chronic disease where the acid from the stomach flows up into the esophagus, into the gullet, causing a burning sensation around the heart or in the middle of the chest. Heartburn is a symptom of acid reflux. It is a sensation of burning behind the breastbone or the center of the chest.

References

  1. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1046/j.1365-2036.2003.01423.x
  2. https://books.google.co.in/books?hl=en&lr=&id=4fzDuNJoICcC&oi=fnd&pg=PT4&dq=heartburn&ots=woSDkgizbE&sig=WsbNUp5NCgKEiEhmEDjARmH8Dig&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=heartburn&f=false
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