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Signs You Have Heartburn, Say Physicians

Frequent heartburn can lead to one of the most deadly cancers.

Heartburn. Thanks to decades of TV commercials, we consider it a relatively harmless condition that just calls for some over-the-counter remedy. And in most cases, it's just that. But frequent heartburn is a cause for concern and a call to your doctor. It can signify a condition that can lead to one of the most deadly cancers. These are the most common signs of heartburn, according to physicians. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Burning Sensation in Your Chest

man having heart attack

The most common symptom of heartburn—and why it's so named—is a burning sensation in your chest, behind your breastbone, after you've eaten. It can last anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours and can move up your chest to your throat. The sensation may get worse when you bend over or lay down.

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Burning Feeling in Throat

Young woman with throat pain while standing in the living room at home.

If you have heartburn, you may feel a burning sensation in your throat. That can be caused by acid from the stomach backing up into the throat. It's a potential symptom of GERD (gastrointestinal reflux disease, a.k.a. acid reflux), in which the valve that separates the stomach and esophagus (the tube leading from the stomach to the throat) weakens, allowing stomach acid to flow upward.

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Sour or Bitter Taste

Woman touching her throat.

If you have heartburn, you may experience a sour or bitter taste in the back of your throat, says the Cleveland Clinic. That's another symptom of GERD, caused by stomach acid flowing back into the throat.

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Difficulty Swallowing

woman experiencing strong throat ache

When you have heartburn, you might also have difficulty swallowing. That can be caused by inflammation resulting from acid flowing up from the stomach to the esophagus. If you have frequent heartburn, it's important to consult your doctor. Left untreated, it can lead to a condition called Barrett's esophagus, which can cause changes to the esophagus that can result in esophageal cancer. 

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What Causes Heartburn?

woman eating pizza and chocolate and drinking wine

Some people experience heartburn because of certain habits, like eating too much, eating too close to bedtime, or drinking too much alcohol. Heartburn may be triggered by certain foods, like spicy or fatty dishes, onions, tomatoes, citrus foods, coffee or other caffeinated beverages, or sodas or other carbonated drinks. If certain eating or drinking habits trigger heartburn, your symptoms may resolve if you reduce your consumption or avoid them. But if you experience heartburn regularly, it's a good idea to consult your healthcare provider for advice. And to ensure your health don't miss these 101 Health Habits You Didn't Know Were Deadly.

Michael Martin
Michael Martin is a New York City-based writer and editor. Read more about Michael