What is Heartburn?

Maybe it’s the middle of the night, you wake up coughing, choking.  Or perhaps you are at work, you have a big greasy meal for lunch, and all of a sudden you feel a burning, stabbing, insistent pain in your chest.

Sound familiar?

If these scenarios do sound familiar, you could be one of the 15 million Americans who suffer from heartburn and acid reflux daily. Technically, heartburn has nothing to do with the heart. It's should be called upper digestive burn. Basically this occurs when stomach acid refluxes back into the esophagus which causes a burning sensation in the chest. 


Signs of Heartburn or Acid Reflux:

  • Chest pain:  occurs because stomach acid is splashing into the esophagus, people often mistake it for a heart attack
  • Regurgitation:  a sour or bitter-tasting acid backing up into your throat or mouth
  • Pain after mealsif the stomach is overloaded with a big fatty meal, this can trigger acid production and reflux. 
  • Choking:  sometimes acid from the stomach makes its way up to the throat and can cause choking.  If you wake up choking, this may be a sign of acid reflux
  • Hoarseness:  often mistaken for an early cold symptom – this can actually be the result of stomach acid seeping into esophagus and irritating the vocal cords
  • Sore throat: usually mistaken for seasonal allergies or cold symptom, a sore throat develops from the continuous irritation of acid on throat. An easy way to know to know it’s not a cold, is if you don’t develop other flu or cold- like symptoms
  • Cough:  If you are experiencing a chronic cough and wheezing, this may not be a respiratory issue but rather stomach acid from reflux getting into your lungs
  • Trouble swallowing:  Over time, the continuous cycle of damage and healing after acid reflux can cause scarring.  This, in turn, causes swelling in the esophageal tissue, and a narrowing of the esophagus, resulting in difficulty swallowing


If you have acid reflux, simple lifestyle changes, like losing excess weight, eating smaller meals, and avoiding foods that seem to trigger heartburn can help.

Foods to avoid:

  • Spicy foods
  • Tomatoes and tomato sauce
  • Garlic
  • Citrus fruit
  • Onion
  • Peppermint
  • Chocolate
  • Fried foods
  • Fatty/greasy foods
  • Salt

Drinks to avoid:

  • Coffee (including decaf)
  • Alcohol
  • Soda
  • Citrus fruit juices