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Symptoms and Signs of Heartburn

Doctor's Notes on Heartburn Symptoms, Diet, Causes, Remedies, Treatment, and Cure

Heartburn is a symptom that results from acid reflux, or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). The pain of heartburn is caused by acid contents of the stomach passing or regurgitating back up into the esophagus (swallowing tube or food tube). It is not clear what caused this backup of acid into the esophagus. Lower esophageal sphincter abnormalities, abnormal muscle contractions of the esophagus, and slow or prolonged emptying of the stomach are believed to play a role in its cause. Heartburn is itself a symptom of GERD. Other signs and symptoms associated with GERD are nausea and regurgitation, or the sense that liquid stomach contents are being passed back up into the throat or mouth. The pain of heartburn is a burning type pain typically experienced in the middle chest.

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Medically Reviewed on 3/11/2019

Heartburn Symptoms, Diet, Causes, Remedies, Treatment, and Cure Symptoms

Symptoms of heartburn usually consist of a sensation of burning or discomfort after eating, located in the middle of the lower chest underneath the sternum (breastbone). The discomfort may increase when bending over or lying flat on the back. Some people experience dysphagia (difficulty swallowing) or feeling like food is stuck in the lower esophagus while others may have a cough or respiratory discomfort, although these symptoms occur less frequently.

Heartburn Symptoms, Diet, Causes, Remedies, Treatment, and Cure Causes

The cause of heartburn is excessive flow of gastric contents back into the esophagus. Normally, there is an occasional backflow into the esophagus with no symptoms. The acidic gastric contents, when present in large amounts, irritate the esophagus (usually the lower part) and cause the symptoms of heartburn.

Heartburn Foods to Eat, Foods to Avoid Slideshow

Heartburn Foods to Eat, Foods to Avoid Slideshow

To answer this question, we first must understand what heartburn is. It is a burning discomfort usually in the center of the chest that continues up to the throat in some individuals. Stomach acid refluxes (flows upwards through a valve called the lower esophageal sphincter) into the esophagus and irritates its tissue. Certain foods trigger heartburn and you need to identify the foods that trigger your heartburn. This slideshow may help you identify foods that may trigger heartburn and offers suggestions about how the risk for heartburn can be reduced.


Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.