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What is acid reflux?

Acid reflux is also known as heartburn, acid indigestion and gastric reflux.

It’s caused when some of the acidic stomach contents go back up into the oesophagus (the tube that carries food down from your mouth). This creates a burning pain in the lower chest area, often after you’ve just had a meal.


What are the acid reflux symptoms?

Think you might have acid reflux? What should you look out for?

The main symptoms tend to come and go. They are often worse after eating or when you lie down or bend over. This is because, when you lie flat, the acid doesn’t have to travel against gravity to get up the oesophagus.

Common symptoms include:

  • Heartburn – this burning pain tends to rise from the upper stomach towards the throat
  • Pain in the upper stomach and chest.
  • Bloating
  • Burning pain on swallowing hot food and especially hot drinks
  • An acid taste in your throat
  • Bad breath
  • Wheezing
  • Dry cough

Less common symptoms:

  • Persistent cough (especially at night), sometimes wheeze
  • Hoarseness
  • Occasionally, very severe pain that may be mistaken for a heart attack

What causes acid reflux?

When you eat or drink, the food or fluid passes from your mouth to your stomach through the oesophagus, which is a muscle-lined tube. The stomach makes acid to help digest food, and the lining of the stomach is designed to withstand that acid.

The lining of the oesophagus is more delicate and needs to be protected from this acid. There is a circular band of muscle at the junction between the oesophagus and the stomach, which acts as a one-way valve. It is designed to let food and fluid go down but prevent stomach acid leaking back into the oesophagus.

If this valve becomes weakened, stomach acid can reflux back into the oesophagus and can sometimes travel right along the oesophagus to reach the throat.

Common causes

  • Diet
  • Being overweight
  • Being pregnant (acid reflux in pregnancy is common as baby pushes up on the stomach)
  • Having a hiatus hernia (the top of the stomach protrudes through the diaphragm)

However, many people develop acid reflux for no apparent reason.

Things to avoid

  • Fried, greasy foods, fatty meats and dairy products
  • Eating too much (large meals), too quickly or late at night
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol, caffeinated drinks, spicy food
  • Tight belts or clothes (increases pressure on the valve)
  • Spending a lot of time lying down

How can I treat acid reflux?

Looking for an effective medicine to ease your discomfort?

Gaviscon Advance provides soothing treatment for acid reflux. It rapidly forms a protective barrier over your stomach contents, which helps prevent acid coming back up.

  • Long-lasting relief - Available in original liquid form or chewable tablets
  • Contains alginate - This works with the body by forming a protective barrier on top of the stomach contents. The physical barrier helps prevent the acid rising into your food pipe. This means Gaviscon remedies do not need to be absorbed into the bloodstream to provide relief
  • Pregnant? - Suitable for use in pregnancy and while breast feeding, if needed.


*Based on a survey of 13,831 Heartburn and Indigestion Sufferers from 5 Countries.

Medicines can affect the unborn baby. Always talk to your doctor or pharmacist before taking any medicine in pregnancy.

Article published 1 January 2021