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What’s the Difference Between Acid Reflux, Heartburn, & GERD?

Written by Dr. Edward Group
Founder

Do you remember those antacid commercials where someone is in a restaurant eating something decadent and suddenly clutches their chest and winces? It was a bit dramatic, but it stuck in my head. As someone who gets both heartburn and acid reflux, it can be difficult to tell the difference. Add in the potential for gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), and it’s a jumble of stress.

This article will help you decipher the difference between all three and learn some quick home remedies.


Differences Between Acid Reflux, Heartburn, & GERD

Knowing whether you have acid reflux, heartburn, and GERD is understandably confusing—the symptoms are often similar. The three conditions are actually all progressions of the same issue. Here’s what’s happening in your body to jump-start the process.

First, you eat something. It doesn’t have to be something particularly fatty, spicy, or decadent. The most common culprits, though, are acidic and fatty foods. Think citrus, chocolate, fried foods, tomatoes, and other things like that.

After chowing down, that food heads from your esophagus to your stomach, a space guarded by the lower esophageal sphincter. It’s a ring of muscle that closes up to keep everything in when food hits your belly. The problem comes in when that muscle doesn’t tighten or close up properly. Stomach acid can then leak back into your esophagus, causing acid reflux, heartburn, and GERD.

All three conditions are more common with people who eat too quickly, drink or smoke, are obese, have a lot of stress, slouch a lot, have Diabetes, or are pregnant. So how do you know which one you have? Let’s take a closer look.

Acid Reflux

It all starts with acid reflux. When the acid flows back into your esophagus from your stomach, it’s called just that: acid reflux. You can usually feel it creeping back up, and then you’ll taste it. The acid can be sour or bitter and can give you a sore throat and make you want to cough. Acid reflux can also be accompanied by its not-so-nice friends: stomach pain, bloating, and nausea. You may also feel like food is caught in the back of your throat.

Heartburn

While some people may peg acid reflux and heartburn as the same thing, heartburn is actually just a symptom of acid reflux. The acid heading back up your throat has a burning sensation and settles in your chest, right behind your breastbone. Rest assured that nothing is wrong with your actual heart—it’s just named heartburn because of where you feel the pain. In addition to the hallmark burning sensation, heartburn can also feel like a sharp pain or a clenching pain. It usually kicks in shortly after you eat, especially if you lie down after your meal; that makes it easier for stomach acid to leak back into your throat.

GERD

Gastroesophageal reflux disease is chronic acid reflux.[1] In mild cases, you’ll get reflux (and the accompanying heartburn) a couple times a week. If it’s more severe, you might get reflux every day or every time you eat. It’s essential to speak with a doctor if you find that you’re having regular GERD symptoms. Untreated, it can lead to the breakdown of tooth enamel, ulcers, and in extreme cases, esophageal cancer.

6 Natural Remedies for Acid Reflux

Acid reflux, heartburn, and GERD don’t have to rule your life or make you nervous to eat your favorite foods. You can make some simple changes to your lifestyle that should help alleviate the problem.

1. Change Your Eating & Drinking Habits

Avoid fatty and spicy foods, reduce your soda consumption, and eat smaller meals slowly and more frequently throughout the day. Try incorporating fresh fruits and vegetables into your diet. Check out this article to get some food inspiration.

2. Give Yourself a Buffer Before Bedtime

If you lay down immediately after eating, it’s going to be easier for acid to flow back up. That’s why we recommend eating your last meal of the day two to three hours before bedtime. You can even develop a bedtime routine with activities like meditation that’ll make your mind and body even more relaxed.

3. Hit the Gym

Exercise burns calories, lifts mood, and improves energy. Did you also know that when you exercise, you actually ease the muscles in your stomach? We recommend getting 150 minutes of activity each week!

4. Kick the Bad Habits

The use of alcohol and cigarettes can kick acid reflux into overdrive because they depress your system. It’s best to avoid them. It can be challenging to quit smoking, but we’ve developed this article to help!

5. Heal Your Gut From Within

Supporting your gut health is key to keeping acid reflux and heartburn at bay. You can find various herbs, like slippery elm bark and meadow leaf, that work to soothe and nourish the digestive tract.

6. Ditch Over-the-Counter Medicine

Most antacids you find at the store are chewable tablets made with questionable ingredients or only single-herb products. We’ve developed a fantastic Raw Herbal Extract™ that eases heartburn naturally. Acid Reflux Relief is a blend of organic ingredients like apple cider vinegar with five other trusted herbs known to soothe occasional heartburn, indigestion, and digestive irritation.

Points to Remember

Acid reflux, heartburn, and GERD are separate but related. Heartburn is a symptom of acid reflux, and GERD is chronic acid reflux. The conditions occur when the entrance to your stomach doesn’t close properly and acid leaks back up into your esophagus.

Eating less and slower, exercising, quitting smoking and drinking, and healing your gut from within can all reduce how often you get acid reflux. If you experience acid reflux or heartburn, be sure to check out our Acid Reflux Relief. It combines the powerful blend of apple cider vinegar, aloe, meadowsweet, slippery elm, and more to bring you indigestion relief safely.

▼ References (1)
  1. GERD. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health. Updated 10 June 2021. Accessed 28 June 2021.


This entry was posted in Digestive Issues, Green Living, Gut and Digestive Health, Health, Nutrition, Whole Body Wellness

†Results may vary. Information and statements made are for education purposes and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. If you have a severe medical condition or health concern, see your physician.