Heartburn Symptoms

You have to admit, the song was a banger. In fact, every song from her 2003 album, The Diary of Alicia Keys has stood the test of time, luring even the worst of singers into a trance wherein they are cosmically coerced into belting out her soulful tunes at the top of their lungs. 

But I digress. 

What Ms Keys neglected to include in her famed hit is the clinical factors involved with heartburn. That is; causes, symptoms and treatments. And frankly, we don’t blame her. That would have made for a terrible song. 

So allow me to go through all of this for you, so that you have a comprehensive understanding of what it is to go through it in both a literal and metaphoric sense. Don’t worry. Between Alicia Keys and I, we’ve got you covered. 


In a Facebook relationship status: it’s complicated. Heartburn can have a number of causes, some more conviluted than others. 

Here is cause of heartburn 101: There is a muscle formation around the lower end of the oesophagus. The muscle releases to let food in, and tightens back up in order to prevent stomach acid from escaping. Heartburn occurs when the muscle relaxes when it shouldn’t, causing stomach acid to rise up into the oesophagus and the unpleasant burning sensation is what follows. Heartburn can also be caused by the stomach producing a lot of acid. 

For some, heartburn can be an occurence that is not triggered by particular foods. For most, however, it is. These food triggers can include:

  • Citrus
  • Chocolate
  • Fatty foods
  • Spicy foods
  • Alcohol
  • Coffee
  • Soft drinks
  • Peppermint

Other lifestyle factors that can cause heartburn and acid reflux include:

  • Smoking
  • Pregnancy
  • Being overweight
  • An increase in particular hormones (eg. progesterone and oestrogen)
  • Stress and anxiety

Heartburn causes a very distinctive sensation within the oesophegus, most often experienced as pain, discomfort and burning in the throat and chest. The pain tends to intensify when you are lying down or bending over.

US-based functional medicine expert, Dr Will Cole, explains that eating the foods that do not trigger a poor response in your body (such as inflammation or heartburn) is a form of self-respect, not restriction. With an ethos of loving your body to wellness, he suggests that you cannot heal a body you hate. Although continuing to eat foods you know cause a reaction may not initially appear to have any bearing on your relationship with your body, Cole would argue otherwise. Putting yourself through heartburn by eating or drinking foods and beverages that you know trigger it, is (he insists) a form of self abuse. 

In his yet-to-be released book, Gut Feelings, Dr Will Cole ascertains that “choosing to eat foods that don’t love you back repeatedly is like staying in a toxic relationship and wondering why you’re still miserable.”

His expertise extends largely to gut health, which he concludes can be held responsible for a large number of autoimmune diseases that afflict many of us today.


Symptoms of heartburn are not hard to pinpoint. As previously referenced, the sensation of heartburn is often described as a burning in the chest or throat, usually occurring straight after food or during the night. It can also cause a bitter or acidic taste in the mouth. In less common cases, people who experience heartburn can often have difficulty swallowing, a feeling of food lodged in the throat, regurgitating stomach contents in the mouth, or even nausea or vomiting. The extent of your symptoms can also be an indicator of a more serious issue at play. 


The same principle can be applied to any foods that are known triggers for health issues, including heartburn and acid reflux. Although it may not be necessary to cut out alcohol or chocolate altogether, it is advantageous to cease consumption of the food or drink as soon as symptoms begin. Gaviscon, or medication similar, can treat these symptoms as soon as they occur. The full range of medication includes:

Guardium Acid Reflux Relief (tablets)

Gaviscon Infant (sachets)

Gaviscon Aniseed (liquid)

Gaviscon Peppermint Flavour (tablets)

Gaviscon Peppermint (liquid)

The range acts as a Proton Pump Inhibitor (PPI) that works by blocking the acid pumps in your stomach, and in doing so relieving heartburn at its source. 

Foods that incur heartburn are (as heartburn sufferers would attest) as much about the food as it is about the quantity of the food. Figuring out how you can continue to enjoy these foods without causing heartburn can be a tricky line to tow, and may change every time. 

There are plenty of over the counter medications that can help with symptom relief. Gaviscon is a very common one, designed to relieve symptoms of indegestion and heartburn. In this instance it could be a symptom of gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD), or another gastrointestinal disease. Whilst not concerning on its own, it can lead to far more serious issues if left untreated. 

Aside from medication, there are things that you can do to either prevent heartburn and acid reflux symptoms, or ease the severity of them. Included are the following:

  • (hopefully) most obviously, avoid the foods and drinks you know trigger it!
  • Eat smaller meals, more frequently
  • Avoid eating or drinking 3-4 hours before going to sleep
  • Avoid smoking
  • Avoid drinking to excess
  • Raise the head of your bed by 10-20 cm so that your chest is elevated above your waist while you are asleep

Heartburn can be an indicator of a more serious health issue. If you experience it more than twice a week, it is recommended that you go see a GP or healthcare professional for advice. 

Information is power, right? So if you know that certain foods or lifestyle factors contribute to heartburn, do yourself a favour and limit them! That achin’ feelin’ inside the chest that Alicia Keys speaks of? It may not be as simple as counting to five, but let’s get rid of it for good!


Image Sources by: Freepik
Image Author: @Lifestylememory


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