What Does Acid Reflux Feel Like?

Many people who experience acid reflux for the first time are often confused with the symptoms and wonder if they are suffering from acid reflux or some other type of health condition. Many also get very worried when they have an acid reflux episode as acid reflux disease can cause a burning pain in the chest that can mimic the pain one would feel when they suffer from a heart attack.

This article will help clear up those confusions and will give you some good answers to the question “What does acid reflux feel like?”

Understanding acid reflux disease

In order to understand what acid reflux feels like, it will first help you to understand the underlying problem that causes acid reflux. That way, you will have an idea that you are suffering from acid reflux pain and not from something else, when you get hit by an acid reflux episode.

When you consume foods that eventually reach your stomach, acids are produced to digest the food. In some cases, when the pH levels are adversely affected by various factors such as the consumption of already acidic food, consumption of very large meals, the stomach’s equilibrium of acid production is altered and affected in a negative way. It might produce way too much acid. When that happens, the acids will try to force their way back up the esophagus. Generally, food doesn’t pass from the stomach to the esophagus. It is always the other way around.

When one suffers from acid reflux disease, acids pass through to the esophagus. Once acids enter the esophageal cavity, they begin to irritate the lining and the nerve endings that are found in the esophagus. The lining and the nerve endings in the esophagus are not designed to deal with strong stomach acids. This irritation is most often felt as pain that is commonly known as heartburn. The pain associated with heartburn is a pain that will mostly start in the area between your breastbone and your abdominal area. Depending on the severity of the acid reflux episode, the pain can be a slight burning sensation while it can also be a sharp pang of pain that can radiate all the way up to your shoulders and neck area.

Generally, heartburn will usually last for just about a few minutes. Though the name suggests that the pain has something to do with the heart, the heart really has no play in the pain caused by the acid reflux disease.

Pain is not the only symptom associated with acid reflux disease. One can suffer from other symptoms as well. They are discussed in more detail below.

Symptoms during an acid reflux episode

Determinants of Gastric Acid Secretion

Determinants of Gastric Acid Secretion (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Please see above for an explanation on heartburn.

Nausea and regurgitation

Since acids produced during acid reflux disease are very bitter, they will make a person feel a bitter taste in the back of their mouth. In some cases, the bitterness might be strong enough to activate a gag reflex in a person who will feel like they are about to throw up.

Sore throat, trouble swallowing and cough

Since stomach acids are highly corrosive, they can do a lot of damage to the tissue in the throat, causing a sore throat that will result in a dull pain. A person might also feel that there is something stuck in their throats. They might have difficulty swallowing foods or water as well.

Some patients will begin to experience a cough when they suffer from an acid reflux episode

Change in voice

When the acid reflux disease is strong enough to send acids that will penetrate the larynx and the voice box, it is possible for patients to experience a hoarsening of the voice. This is however a symptom that is more common with LPR reflux, a rather serious type of acid reflux disease.

General unease

When one suffers from acid reflux disease, they will feel bloated and generally uncomfortable, until the acids in the stomach neutralize and return to normal levels.

When should you see a doctor?

Almost every human being will experience heartburn at some point in their lives. It generally goes away on its own. However, there are some scenarios where you must visit a doctor who will then prescribe medication that can treat your heartburn condition. A doctor might also recommend certain lifestyle and diet changes if you are a frequent victim of acid reflux disease.

See a doctor about acid reflux disease when

  • You have acid reflux episodes for more than 2 or three times a week, over more than two weeks
  • When heartburn keeps you awake at night
  • When you consistently begin to feel very full even though you might have eaten very little
    • When heartburn pain is quite serious or unbearable
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