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Have you ever experienced an uncomfortable burning sensation after eating too much? Chances are you had a touch of heartburn.

What is heartburn?

Acid reflux, or heartburn, is a painful burning sensation in the chest. It is caused by stomach acid moving up into the oesophagus due to a relaxed or weakened oesophageal sphincter. It is usually worse in the evenings, after eating or when lying down or bending over. It can be accompanied by a bitter or sour taste in the mouth.


Heartburn can be aggravated by eating certain foods and eating those foods in excess. Foods that can cause heartburn include:

  • Spicy food
  • Food with high acidity levels, such tomato
  • Citrus fruits or food that contain citrus
  • Chocolate
  • Peppermint
  • Coffee and other caffeinated products
  • Alcohol
  • Carbonated drinks
  • Fried and fatty food

When does heartburn become dangerous?

Normally, heartburn is only experienced occasionally and is nothing to be concerned about. It can be treated with over-the-counter antacids or be prevented by avoiding the types of food that cause heartburn.

You need to consult a doctor if the following occurs:

  • Heartburn is experienced more than twice a week
  • If you experience any difficulty swallowing
  • If the heartburn doesn’t go away, even if you use over-the-counter medication
  • If you have persistent nausea or vomiting
  • If you experience weight loss
  • If you have a loss of appetite of difficulty eating

If you experience severe chest pain, you need to seek immediate medical attention as it could be a sign of a heart attack, especially if paired with other symptoms like pain in the left arm or jaw.

Heartburn and GERD

Gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, is a condition where heartburn occurs frequently and interferes with your daily life. It can be treated with prescription medication, or in extreme cases with surgical procedures.

If left untreated, it can cause serious damage to the oesophagus and it can lead to the precancerous changes known as Barrett’s oesophagus.

With the festive season upon us, remember not to overdo it with the Christmas dinner, no matter how good the food may be, and spare yourself the pain and discomfort. Besides, the left-overs make really good sandwiches the next day!