Picture this: You’re enjoying a peaceful night’s rest, when you suddenly experience a burning feeling in your chest that moves up to your throat. You might even feel like there are acidic juices in your mouth, or you may wake up in a cold sweat. Are these heartburn symptoms in your chest? And more importantly – how do you get rid of that discomfort?

Well, there are many reasons why heartburn happens. And the good news is, there are also many ways to manage it, and many effective options for relief.

What are the Symptoms of Acid Reflux?

Heartburn is a symptom of acid reflux – and it occurs when stomach acid moves up into the esophagus (the tube that runs from your throat to your stomach).1

There are several signs and symptoms of acid reflux – here are a few common ones:

  • An acidic or sour taste in your throat or mouth
  • Sore throat
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Upper abdominal pain
  • Chest discomfort that gets worse when you lay down, bend over, or eat a large meal2

Several things can make heartburn symptoms worse, leading to further discomfort in the upper abdomen.

These factors may include:

  • Eating certain “trigger” foods such as onions, tomato-based foods, or spicy foods
  • Drinking carbonated beverages, alcohol, or citrus juices
  • Eating right before you go to bed3

What are the Differences Between Esophageal Reflux and Heartburn?

You may see the terms heartburn, acid reflux, and esophageal reflux used interchangeably. But these are not the same problems – they’re quite different.

Acid reflux is a common condition. Some people have mild acid reflux; others have more serious cases.

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), or esophageal reflux, is a chronic disease. It occurs when someone has acid reflux over and over. People with this disease may have trouble breathing. They might think they have asthma symptoms.

Heartburn is not a condition or a disease. It’s a symptom of acid reflux and gastroesophageal reflux disease.4

What Caused My Heartburn to Develop?

heartburn symptoms in chest | Westwood WellnessSometimes, the esophageal sphincter doesn’t operate the way it should. That can lead to acid reflux or gastro-oesophageal reflux. This sphincter is a muscle located where your stomach and esophagus meet.

The esophageal sphincter opens when you swallow, and it closes after the food you’re eating enters your stomach. If the sphincter muscle doesn’t fully close, acidic juices from your stomach can enter the esophagus and chest, ultimately going toward your throat and mouth.5

What are the Risk Factors for Esophageal Discomfort?

Several factors may contribute to heartburn that leads to esophageal discomfort. For example, you might be going through a lot of stress. You might smoke, or you might be overweight. Even wearing tight clothes can lead to symptoms.

Can You Prevent Heartburn Symptoms?

Now, there are things you can try at home to ease heartburn symptoms or avoid them altogether. One of the best things is to avoid your triggers. This could mean cutting back on fruit juices, alcohol, or tomato-based products.

To avoid triggering heartburn symptoms, you may need to change your eating habits.

Because a full stomach can put pressure on your esophageal sphincter, try eating more small meals instead of one big meal.

Be sure to wait several hours after eating before you lay down – otherwise, you may be putting too much pressure on the esophageal sphincter. Also try to keep from exercising or bending over after you eat. And as always, be sure to talk to your doctor before making any big dietary or lifestyle changes.6

Other Changes to Consider

When you sleep, try to keep your head elevated by about six inches or so. This can help keep acidic stomach juices from moving into your esophagus.

Do what you can to reduce stress, which can make reflux worse. Also, don’t wear clothes or belts that are too tight, as this can put too much pressure on your abdomen.7

Don’t Live With the Symptoms of Acid Reflux

You shouldn’t have to deal with acid reflux, especially at night. Heartburn isn’t something you need to accept. Pay attention to any symptoms you’re feeling, like nausea or an acidic taste in your mouth. Be sure to consult with your physician if you’re concerned – he or she will know how best to address your unique medical needs.

Learn More:
What Causes Burping?
Natural Remedies to Help With Heartburn During Pregnancy
How the GI Tract Works (And What Happens When Heartburn Occurs)