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The Crucial Question: Is It Heartburn Or Indigestion?

11/02/2015 12:00 EST | Updated 11/09/2015 11:59 EST
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Female Abdomen with UGH! written on it

This article is sponsored by the makers of ZANTAC®.

Is it heartburn or indigestion?

Trying to get rid of your heartburn symptoms and not having the best of luck? First things first: are you even sure what you have is heartburn or could it actually be indigestion? You can hardly expect the remedies to work if you’re misdiagnosing yourself. This straightforward guide will help you figure out whether it is indeed heartburn causing you discomfort.

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What it feels like:

Heartburn

As you might expect from its name, heartburn feels like a burning sensation in your chest. You may also, but not always, experience a sour taste at the back of your throat, and/or feel like you have food stuck in the back of your throat.

Indigestion

The symptoms of indigestion are more varied than heartburn, and you tend to feel discomfort more towards your stomach area. It can include general pain in the belly area, feeling bloated and nauseous, frequent belching, the uncomfortable feeling of having overeaten, and, yes, heartburn. Heartburn can be one of the symptoms of indigestion so no wonder it’s easy to confuse the two.

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What causes it:

Heartburn

The causes of heartburn are broad, and that’s in part because it is a symptom of several diseases and conditions. It could be as simple as having eaten a certain food—for some people, chocolate can be a trigger while for others it might be acidic or fatty foods.

Indigestion

That fried chicken you adore? Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but it may be causing your indigestion. Fatty, greasy and spicy foods can trigger indigestion. Eating too fast and/or too much can also be the root of your pain, as well as drinking too much alcohol or caffeine.

In addition, if you’re under a lot of stress or are feeling very anxious, this can lead to your indigestion symptoms. Smoking can cause indigestion too, which makes sense since many smokers tend to reach for a cigarette in times of stress. Conditions such as pancreatitis and ulcers may also be the culprit. Lastly, if you’re on any medications, side effects can sometimes include indigestion.

How to treat it:

Avoiding common food triggers like fat-laden, greasy foods; eating at a slower pace; consuming less food; and reducing stress can all help reduce your chances of experiencing heartburn and indigestion.

For heartburn itself, there are over-the-counter medications that can help relieve your symptoms, such as ZANTAC®, which provides relief not only for heartburn, but also acid indigestion and upset stomach. Speak with your doctor about your symptoms and to ensure it’s not another health issue causing that burning sensation in your chest.

When it comes to indigestion, altering your dietary and lifestyle habits could help you avoid experiencing symptoms. But if you’re experiencing it on an ongoing basis, make an appointment with your doctor to check if there’s another condition causing your stomach issues.