Many people with gastrointestinal or digestive complaints struggle to get a diagnosis or find the right treatment because so many conditions share similar symptoms.
From a burning sensation in the chest to stomach pains; it’s hard to know exactly what you’re suffering from – you just know you don’t feel great.
One of the most frequently asked questions is: ‘Do I have heartburn or is it indigestion?’
Professor Peter Dettmar agrees that it is not always easy for patients when self-reporting symptoms but says there are differences between how we define heartburn and indigestion:
• Heartburn is centralised chest pain often very sharp and difficult to identify exactly where the pain is located
• Heartburn commonly occurs post-prandial (after dinner or lunch) and can be mistaken as cardiac pain
• Indigestion is far more difficult to pinpoint where the pain is coming from but usually in the region of the stomach and bowels and sometimes associated with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
• Heartburn has a focal point whereas indigestion covers larger area
• Heartburn pain is felt higher up the body than pain from indigestion
• If you have indigestion, you may also have symptoms such as feeling uncomfortably full or heavy, belching or flatulence, bloating, feeling sick and vomiting
Reflux disease is a common condition and one of the main causes of recurring indigestion and heartburn. Both can occur when the lower oesophageal sphincter fails to work properly and stops stomach acid from moving back up into your oesophagus.
Treatments, such as Gaviscon, will quickly relieve the pain of heartburn whereas antacids far better at relieving the pain from indigestion but relief is often only transient. If IBS, pain will not be relieved by antacids.