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Acid reflux and heartburn

What is acid reflux?

Acid reflux, also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter (or valve at the entrance of the stomach) doesn’t close or opens inappropriately. When the valve doesn’t close, stomach acid refluxes into your esophagus causing acid damage to the lining.

People of all ages can experience acid reflux, and is also a common in pregnant women because the baby pushes against the stomach and diaphragm. Other causes for acid reflux include being overweight, eating before laying down, consuming large portions, drinking caffeine or alcohol, smoking, and eating fatty foods. Spicy and acidic foods may worsen acid reflux symptoms.

What is heartburn?

Heartburn is one of the most common symptoms of acid reflux and is characterized by a pain or burning in your stomach, chest, or throat. Other symptoms of acid reflux may include regurgitation, nausea, bloating, and burping or hiccups that won’t stop. Sometime persistent cough or throat clearing may be a symptom of acid reflux.

If you experience heartburn, try to determine what is causing it. Healthy diet and exercise may help. If you experience heartburn at night, eating at least four hours before going to bed and propping your head and chest on a pillow can help alleviate some discomfort. You can also try taking an over-the-counter antacid to help reduce the amount of acid in your stomach.

Why it is important to get treatment?

Heartburn or acid reflux can be serious and lead to Barrett's Esophagus and esophageal cancer. It’s important to talk to your doctor if you suffer from heartburn two or more times per week. He or she may want to give you a prescription or perform endoscopy to check for Barrett's Esophagus.

Mercy Hospitals in Bakersfield can help you learn more about digestive disorders

To find a doctor specializing in gastrointestinal disorders, or to find a primary physician (PCP), please use our Find A Doctor tool or call (661) 324-7070.

At risk for acid reflux disease?

Find out now


Heartburn—that uncomfortable, burning sensation in the chest that many people occasionally experience after eating—is fairly common. But if you get heartburn frequently, you may be experiencing symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD.

Take this quick assessment to:

  • Understand symptoms and causes of acid reflux disease (GERD)
  • Determine your risk factors for developing GERD
  • Learn which lifestyle factors can decrease your risk


Take the assessment

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