How to Tell Heartburn, Acid Reflux, and GERD Apart
Though often used interchangeably, heartburn, reflux, and GERD are actually separate issues with different meanings. When acid reflux occurs, it can range in severity from mild to serious. However, it’s not chronic, and anyone can have it happen sometime in their life. On the other hand, Gastro esophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a chronic and more severe form of reflux. Heartburn is a symptom of GERD and reflux rather than an issue in itself.
What is Heartburn?
When someone says, “heartburn,” you might think it has to do with the heart, like a heart attack. However, the heart actually has nothing to do with the pain that you are feeling. Rather, it takes place in your Barrett's esophagus or the lower part that is closer to the upper part of the stomach.
The pain occurs when stomach contents, aka stomach acids, make their way back as reflux into the esophagus. Because this area has a more sensitive lining, you can feel a burning sensation in your chest. Due to this, the symptoms of heartburn are very similar to the pain of a heart attack.
What is Acid Reflux?
A circular muscle called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) joins your esophagus and stomach. It’s what helps to make sure food stays down by tightening after food passes. However, if this muscle is weak or doesn’t work properly, then a side effect will be acid micing back into your esophagus.
This is known as acid reflux. Symptoms of acid reflux include occasional heartburn, cough, sore throat, bitter taste in the back of the throat, sour taste in the mouth, and burning pressure up the breastbone.
What is GERD?
GERD is the chronic form of acid reflux. In this case, you will need to experience heartburn and other reflux symptoms at least twice a week. Eventually, this will cause an inflammation of the esophagus and can lead to long-term damage, and cancer is not treated.
People with GERD will see symptoms including bad breath, damage to tooth enamel, heartburn, chest pain, dry cough, asthma, trouble swallowing, and the feeling that stomach content has come back into the throat.
If you are looking for a solution that does not involve medications or proton pump inhibitors, many people show success by diet and lifestyle modification. Avoiding alcohol, chocolate, coffee, greasy and salty foods, fatty foods, peppermint, spicy foods, and tomato products can help to reduce your reflux issues.
In addition, not smoking, not wearing tight clothing, eating smaller meals, and sitting upright for three hours after eating have helped many eliminate their symptoms completely. Finally, losing weight has been shown to help those that are obese or overweight.
If you have tried everything from above and are still experiencing symptoms, then you should first contact your doctor. They might recommend medication or supplements to help you reduce your symptoms or eliminate them completely. Following that conversation, check out Agape Nutrition as an option for finding a supplement that could help.