What is heartburn?
Heartburn is a burning pain in your chest which feels like indigestion.
This pain is caused by stomach acid flowing the wrong way, from your stomach back up into your oesophagus (the pipe that carries food from your mouth to your stomach).
By learning more about the symptoms, causes, tests for and treatment of heartburn, you can understand it better and make informed decisions to try and get back on track.
What are the symptoms of heartburn?
You might have heartburn if you have any of these symptoms:
- Burning in the middle of your chest
- Pain which is worse when you bend over or lie down
What causes heartburn?
There are several possible causes of heartburn, and it’s important to find out what’s causing yours. Here are the main causes of heartburn:
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GORD)
- Hiatus hernia, when part of your stomach moves up into your chest
- Surgery you’ve had in the past (especially bariatric surgery)
- Certain foods and drinks, such as alcohol, coffee, chocolate, and fatty or spicy foods
- Being overweight
- Stress or anxiety
- Medication, such as anti-inflammatory painkillers
- Overgrowth of bacteria in your small intestine (this is called SIBO)
How do we diagnose the causes heartburn?
The following tests may be used to diagnose what is causing your heartburn:
- Oesophageal manometry – which measures the function of your oesophagus (food pipe)
- 24-hour pH impedance monitoring – which looks at whether you have any reflux
- Carbohydrate malabsorption breath test – which finds out if you have certain food intolerances (lactose or fructose)
- Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) breath test – which finds out if you have an overgrowth of bacteria in your small intestine (called SIBO)
- Gastric emptying test – which measures how quickly food leaves your stomach