Chillies representing burning sensation from heartburn

Heartburn: Causes, Symptoms & Relief

What is Heartburn?
What are the symptoms of heartburn?
What causes heartburn?

What is Heartburn?

Heartburn is the name given to the burning feeling or heat that begins in your chest and rises upwards to the throat. It usually comes in waves and is in response to stomach acid rising up through a valve from the stomach into the oesophagus (food pipe). In most cases, the burning sensation or pain is due to stomach acid irritating the unprotected oesophagus.

Heartburn usually happens after meals, when you go to bed or during the night, and can last for several hours or more. Many people suffer sleepless nights as a result of heartburn because the lying down position can contribute to the condition and increase the pain.

Heartburn is one of the most common symptoms of GORD - Gastro Oesophageal Reflux Disease. It might sound scary, but in most cases GORD is not a serious condition and is experienced by one in ten people every day. However, persistent episodes can damage the lining of the oesophagus, so have a chat with your GP or pharmacist if you’re at all concerned.

Working on laptop and mobile phone with coffee

Heartburn can be more common during pregnancy as the body changes hormonally and physically. To find out more about Rennie and pregnancy, visit our heartburn during pregnancy page.

What are the symptoms of heartburn?

The symptoms of heartburn can be described in lots of ways.

  • A burning sensation in your chest or throat after eating
  • A hot sour or salty tasting fluid in the back of your throat and difficulty swallowing
  • Pressure behind the breastbone
  • Feeling bloated
  • Needing to burp
  • Feeling sick

It feels like my insides are on fire.

What causes heartburn?

Heartburn is very common. In most cases, it is caused by acid reflux, which is when the ring of muscle or valve (called the sphincter muscle) at the entrance to your stomach doesn’t close tightly, or relaxes too often, allowing acid from the stomach to travel out and up the oesophagus (food pipe).

Hot red chillies covered in water droplets
  • Certain foods can increase the likelihood of heartburn for different reasons. Fried or greasy foods, high fat meats and whole milk dairy products can cause the valve to relax. Caffeinated drinks, coffee, alcohol and spicy foods can all stimulate excess acid production and increase the likelihood of heartburn.
  • Some people find they experience heartburn when they are stressed.

  • Being overweight means you can be more likely to suffer from heartburn because of increased pressure on your stomach, which can force open the valve after a meal. Even tight clothing can do this.
  • Are you suffering from Heartburn? Read some treatment tips to help relieve the symptoms of heartburn.