Man reacting to heartburn caused by acid reflux

Acid Reflux: Causes & Symptoms

What is acid reflux?
What are the symptoms of acid reflux?
What causes acid reflux?

What is acid reflux?

Acid reflux is the reverse passage of gastric contents into the oesophagus (‘food pipe’) which can cause heartburn. The terms are often used interchangeably, but acid reflux is the actual action of part of the stomach contents traveling back up the oesophagus (sometimes into the throat and even into the mouth), while heartburn is the uncomfortable feeling as a result of that action.

If you have frequent acid reflux, you may have acid reflux disease. Acid reflux disease and Gastro Oesophageal Reflux Disease (GORD or GERD) are the same thing. 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.

Spicy curry with hot chillies on table

What are the symptoms of acid reflux?

Acid reflux can be pain free, but it can cause:

  • A burning sensation or heat in your chest or throat usually 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/being sick (nausea)
  • Cramps
  • Bad breath
  • Hiccups

I get a burning feeling in my chest and the back of my throat sometimes after eating late at night.

What causes acid reflux?

At the entrance to your stomach is a ring of muscle or a valve called the sphincter muscle. It is supposed to open to allow food to pass through, and close afterwards. If it doesn’t close properly or opens too often, then acid from the stomach could escape.

Acid reflux normally happens when we eat certain foods. 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. Eating large meals, lying down straight after eating or snacking close to bedtime are common triggers of reflux.

Being overweight means you can be more likely to suffer from reflux because of increased pressure on your stomach, which can force open the valve after a meal.

Some people find acid reflux is worse when they are stressed.

Acid reflux also happens due to a weakness of the sphincter muscle, or when the stomach produces too much acid and not enough protective mucous. There is also something called a hiatus hernia; due to a gap in the diaphragm, parts of the stomach can move into the chest which increases the risk of reflux.

Taking pain relievers such as ibuprofen, some muscle relaxers, or blood pressure medications can also stimulate acid reflux.

Mixed meat being grilled on a barbecue

Suffering from acid reflux? Read some treatment tips to help relieve the symptoms of acid reflux.

  • Breakfasts on the go: simple and healthy recipes and ideas
  • Is there a difference between acid reflux and indigestion?
  • Tips to combat stress
  • Heartburn triggers
Three healthy breakfast juices made with fruit and vegetables

Breakfasts on the go: simple and healthy recipes and ideas

Breakfast is widely regarded as the most important meal of the day - but many of us skip it because we'd rather push the snooze button and have an extra five minutes in bed.

However, just because your morning routine is more rushed than relaxed, doesn’t mean you can’t have a healthy breakfast.

Rennie Peppermint takes a look at the best breakfasts you can prepare in a flash and grab as you run out the door to catch your bus…

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Woman holding painful chest in reaction heartburn

Is there a difference between acid reflux and indigestion?

Quite often, the terms acid reflux and indigestion are used interchangeably without fully understanding the differences between the two.

There are in fact a number of differences between the two as indigestion is not, as many believe, just a milder form of acid reflux.

Rennie have taken the time to look into the two issues, and have put together this guide to allow you to understand the differences for yourself.

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Young couple walking together in the sun

Tips to combat stress

Stress can be a major contributor to heartburn or indigestion – which is all the more reason to adopt healthy ways of dealing with stress.

Thankfully, finding new ways to cope and relax doesn’t have to involve spending large amounts of time or money, there are plenty of things you can start doing today to relieve the stress in your life.

Rennie takes a look at some of the best things you can do to ease the tension…

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Chillie spice, powder and dried chillies on table

Heartburn triggers

Heartburn is an extremely uncomfortable experience that affects thousands of people across Ireland on a daily basis.

Also known as acid reflux, heartburn is a burning sensation in the chest that occurs as a result of stomach acid rising up into the oesophagus.

Heartburn symptoms can also range from burning in the chest to a sour acidic taste in the back of throat and is often triggered by foods many of us eat on a daily basis.

Read more