Heartburn? Or is it GERD?


After a large meal, do you ever get a burning sensation in your stomach or chest, or taste acid in your mouth? Many of us would chalk this unpleasant feeling up to acid reflux or heartburn.

But if it happens often, heartburn could be a symptom of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), a digestive tract disorder which affects the muscle separating the lower esophagus from the stomach.

What’s the Difference Between GERD and Heartburn?

GERD is reflux of the stomach contents into the esophagus. Heartburn, or a burning sensation in the chest, can be one of the symptoms of GERD.

Frequent and persistent heartburn is the most common symptom of GERD, but GERD is also associated with other symptoms, such as:

  • regurgitation
  • chronic cough
  • difficulty swallowing
  • chest pain, especially while lying down

What Causes GERD?

Factors that can contribute to GERD include:

  • smoking
  • excessive caffeine intake
  • being overweight
  • eating late in the evening

One possible cause of GERD is a hiatal hernia, or stomach hernia. A hiatal hernia happens when part of your stomach moves up through the diaphragm and into the chest. Because the diaphragm  normally acts as an additional barrier to acid reflux, the presence of a hiatal hernia can aggravate GERD symptoms.

Not everyone with a hiatal hernia experiences GERD, but a hernia can make it easier for the stomach’s contents to flow into the esophagus, making GERD more likely.

So is It Heartburn or Is It GERD?

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Learn More About Esophageal Disorders at Norton Thoracic Institute

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The information provided by Dignity Health and Dignity Health Arizona is for general informational purposes only. All information is provided in good fair and we make no representation or warranty of any kind, express or implied.