What is heartburn?

Heartburn happens when your stomach acid flows back into your esophagus, or food pipe. This causes an uncomfortable burning feeling in your chest that can move up to your neck and throat. You may also have a bitter or sour taste in the back of your throat. Heartburn can last from a few minutes to several hours, and often feels worse after you eat.

Occasional heartburn is common, and can usually be relieved by over-the-counter antacids. The condition is also known as acid reflux, gastroesophageal reflux (GERD), acid indigestion, and reflux.

If you have heartburn often and it is severe, you may have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). If this is the case, talk to your doctor.

What does heartburn feel like?

Heartburn symptoms include:

  • A burning feeling in the chest just behind the breastbone that happens after eating and lasts a few minutes to several hours
  • Chest pain, especially after bending over, lying down or eating
  • Burning in the throat
  • Hot, sour, acidic, or salty tasting fluid at the back of the throat
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • A feeling of food “sticking” in the middle of the chest or throat

What causes heartburn?

Several factors may lead to heartburn or make it feel worse. These include:

Eating habits

  • Eating large food portions
  • Eating certain foods such as onions, chocolate, peppermint, high-fat foods, citrus fruits, garlic, spicy foods, and tomatoes or tomato-based products
  • Drinking alcohol, citrus juices, caffeinated beverages, and carbonated beverages
  • Eating shortly before bedtime

Lifestyle habits

Medical reasons