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The Difference Between Heartburn and Acid Reflux

You’ve always had heartburn, but perhaps now it’s occurring more frequently. In that case, it’s time to see a specialist. Frequent heartburn may be a sign of acid reflux, or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). 

Our board-certified general and bariatric surgeons at Turnquest Surgical Solutions treat many patients who have acid reflux. Heartburn is a common symptom of acid reflux. 

What is heartburn? 

The term “heartburn” is a misnomer. Your heart isn’t the problem. Your digestive system is the actual culprit. How does it cause that burning pain? 

The discomfort actually comes from your esophagus. If food regurgitates and moves back up toward your throat, the acids that are breaking down the food irritate the lining of your esophagus, which is more sensitive than the lining in your stomach, where your food is digested.  

Heartburn can cause burning pain to move up into your throat, but it often feels like the pain is  around your heart; therefore, the reason for the misnomer. Sometimes it can feel like a heart attack, but then it dissipates if you take an antacid. 

Why do I have heartburn?

Red wine, caffeine, fatty foods, spicy foods, and citrus foods are some of the common triggers that can bring on heartburn. Heartburn usually occurs after you eat a big meal. 

If you’ve stretched your stomach, the muscle that helps hold your stomach acids in weakens. Food and acid push back up into the esophagus. If you’re overweight or obese, you’re more at risk for heartburn and acid reflux.  

What is acid reflux? 

If you have very frequent heartburn, you may have a chronic condition called acid reflux. Heartburn is a symptom of it, as noted above. 

You have a muscle that connects your esophagus to your stomach. Once food is in your stomach, the muscle, when working properly, constricts to prevent food from moving upward into the esophagus again. 

When this muscle becomes weak, it can’t tighten enough, and the acid moves back up into your throat. When this condition becomes chronic (at least two times per week), you have acid reflux. 

You may or may not have heartburn if you have acid reflux. Other common symptoms of the condition include: 

Our board-certified bariatric surgeons, Dexter Turnquest, MD, and Victoria Chang, MD, advise their patients with acid reflux to lose weight, which can lessen or even cause the symptoms to cease. 

If you’ve tried time after time to lose weight and cannot, we offer weight loss surgery to help you conquer the battle. 

You definitely need to get acid reflux under control, because if it continues over a long period, you could develop a serious condition called Barrett’s esophagus or even esophageal cancer. 

Call or request an appointment online today at one of our Houston, Texas, locations of Turnquest Surgical Solutions if you have symptoms of acid reflux.

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