Heartburn symptoms: Six signs of heartburn and acid reflux – what are the causes?

Heartburn is caused by stomach acid travelling up towards the throat, and this is known as acid reflux. It can happen all year round, not just at Christmas time, but it is often made worse by many of the foods and drinks enjoyed during the festive period.


  • Heartburn: What can you do for heartburn and acid reflux?

Heartburn can easily be treated with lifestyle changes and pharmacy medicines.

But how do you know if you have it in the first place?

Symptoms of acid reflux

The NHS lists six symptoms of acid reflux. The main symptoms are:

  • Heartburn – a burning sensation in the middle of your chest
  • An unpleasant sour taste in your mouth, caused by stomach acid
  • You may also have:
  • A cough or hiccups that keep coming back
  • A hoarse voice
  • Bad breath
  • Bloating and feeling sick

Symptoms tend to be worse after eating, when lying down and when bending over.

So what causes acid reflux?

Sometimes there’s no obvious reason why heartburn and acid reflux happens, but the NHS says it can be caused or made worse by:

  • Certain food and drink – such as coffee, alcohol, chocolate and fatty or spicy foods
  • Being overweight
  • Smoking
  • Pregnancy
  • Stress and anxiety
  • Some medicines, such as anti-inflammatory painkillers (like ibuprofen)
  • A hiatus hernia – when part of your stomach moves up into your chest

How to treat heartburn and acid reflux

The health body also advises how to treat heartburn yourself through some simple lifestyle changes.

It recommends to:

  • Eat smaller, more frequent meals
  • Raise one end of your bed 10 to 20cm by putting something under your bed or mattress – make it so your chest and head are above the level of your waist, so stomach acid does not travel up towards your throat
  • Try to lose weight if you’re overweight
  • Try to find ways to relax


  • Best supplements for heartburn: Add this to your diet

You should not:

  • Have food or drink that triggers your symptoms
  • Eat within three or four hours before bed
  • Wear clothes that are tight around your waist
  • Smoke
  • Drink too much alcohol
  • Stop taking any prescribed medicine without speaking to a doctor first

A pharmacist will also be able to advise how best to treat heartburn.

You should see a GP if these lifestyle changes and pharmacy medicines aren’t helping, or if you have heartburn most days for three weeks or more, as this could be a sign of something more serious.

Also see your GP if you experience other symptoms like food getting stuck in your throat, frequently being sick or losing weight for no reason.

To ease symptoms of acid reflux, a GP may prescribe medicine that reduce how much acid your stomach makes.

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