Q: “Is there a difference between heartburn and indigestion?”
Jennifer, via email
A: Senior nutritionist Rose Carr says:
“We usually think of indigestion as that painful or uncomfortable feeling in the upper abdomen after eating. Indigestion is used as a general term to describe a range of symptoms such as burping, bloating, abdominal discomfort and heartburn.
Heartburn is also known as gastroesophogeal reflux disease (GORD), or reflux, and has nothing to do with the heart (it just occurs in the same vicinity). After you swallow food, it travels down the oesophagus into the stomach. Between the oesophagus and stomach is a valve called the ‘lower oesophageal sphincter’ and it’s designed to relax and allow food to pass into the stomach. Sometimes the valve doesn’t work properly and it allows some stomach acid to come back into the oesophagus, causing that unpleasant burning sensation.
Eating and drinking too much, or too quickly, is a common cause of heartburn and other symptoms of indigestion. Pressure on the stomach – from overfilling it, being overweight and pregnancy – can also weaken the valve and result in heartburn.
Most people will experience indigestion or heartburn at some time, but if it becomes frequent or painful, it’s advisable to see your GP.”