Acid reflux and heartburn are not the same things.
In fact, heartburn is the most common symptom of reflux.
In some cases, heartburn might be confused with other conditions, such as heart attacks or other digestive issues.
That’s why it’s so important to recognize symptoms in the best possible way, to avoid misunderstandings that can lead to wrong treatments.
Another important thing to consider is the duration (or persistence) of reflux-related symptoms over time.
There is a condition called severe heartburn that makes things worse.
People who suffer from this condition experience a greater impairment of their quality of life, mostly because of two reasons:
- their symptoms are stronger than usual, and they occur more frequently throughout the day
- they are much more likely to develop a real GERD, meaning that they also are at higher risk for some serious complications
Despite this, there are several things you can do to recover a normal quality of life.
This is the ultimate goal that every person suffering from acid reflux should achieve.
So, let’s dive a bit deeper into this condition to prevent complications.
Severe Heartburn: What Is It?
In general terms, we refer to this condition when you experience more frequent symptoms that can significantly impair your quality of life.
This comes along with two things to consider:
- the duration of symptoms
- the intensity of symptoms
The latter is of particular importance because it frequently poses differential diagnosis problems with heart attacks.
However, heart attacks and severe heartburn have nothing in common and also have different origins.
In many cases, the occurrence of heartburn symptoms for a longer time and with a stronger intensity is a sign of real GERD.
This means that the acid reflux that underlies the symptoms is getting worse.
In these cases, severe heartburn is a way to recognize the condition and this allows us to act properly with the right treatments, to prevent some serious complications often related to untreated GERD.
This is the likely most frequent situation that people who suffer from the condition have to face.
The intensity of symptoms increases, and in most cases the precautions adopted until then are no longer sufficient to control the symptom.
More, in particular, we can talk about “intense heartburn” when the following things appear:
- heartburn at night can’t longer be controlled by just raising the pillow
- troubles with your sleep that come almost every night (you can also become more anxious for that, and this makes things worse)
- a stronger than usual pain under the breastbone
- a sensation of a stronger taste of acid on the back of your tongue
- much more problems in swallowing
We can’t say that all the above-mentioned symptoms occur at the same time in all the people who suffer from severe heartburn, however, they are the most common indicators of a higher intensity of that.
All together make the picture worse and make intervention urgent.
Chronic heartburn causes
The other essential thing to consider when it comes to severe heartburn is the duration of symptoms.
This does not only mean the appearance frequency, but also the length of the single episodes.
It’s not so easy to define a threshold beyond which we can say with certainty that it is severe heartburn, but the following questions may help:
- are you suffering from heartburn (as described in the previous paragraph) for more than three times per week?
- did you notice a clear increase in the duration of each individual heartburn episode?
- did you notice a clear reduction of the time between one heartburn episode and another one?
If the answer is YES to at least 2 of these questions, there is a strong possibility that you’re suffering from severe heartburn.
However, there’s another important aspect to consider, especially because it worries people who experience it.
Severe heartburn pain
The other important aspect to consider is the pain that can occur in the presence of a severe heartburn episode.
All the people who are dealing with reflux and related symptoms should recognize this type of pain, but when things are more serious this pain it can become worrying because it mimics a heart attack.
However, there are some differences we want to highlight here, in order for you not to be confused and stay calm under this particular scenario.
First of all, let’s say that the most common symptom of heart attack for both men and women is chest pain or discomfort.
This can be present with heartburn, that’s why it’s so important to consider all things that are not related to heartburn instead.
Among them we have:
- Pressure, tightness, pain, or a squeezing or aching sensation in your chest or arms that may spread to your neck, jaw or back
- Cold sweat
There also are other quite common symptoms that come along with a heart attack, however, in several cases, they can also be related to digestive disorders, including acid reflux and heartburn.
- Nausea and indigestion (in some cases, also abdominal pain)
- Shortness of breath (this symptom is reported by many people who suffer from heartburn and reflux)
- Lightheadedness or sudden dizziness (not so frequent but worth a mention)
What we considered here is important to avoid confusion and especially to inform the people that their chest pain has no relation to a sudden heart attack.
Of course, there also are people who suffer from both conditions, acid reflux and heart attack, but these are very specific cases, and, on most occasions, they are aware of that just because they know about their situation.
Severe heartburn at night
Nighttime heartburn is a serious condition because affects the quality of the sleep and this leads to several consequences.
The situation is even worse when this condition occurs for several nights in a row, and this is a clear sign of severe heartburn and a real GERD as well.
It has been noted that there are some special conditions able to cause this.
The first one os the so-called eosinophilic esophagitis: people who suffer from this inflammation of the esophagus feel stronger heartburn episodes and also dyspepsia is a common symptom.
Fortunately, with the right treatment and especially with the adoption of proper lifestyle things can improve significantly.
It’s very important to treat heartburn when it impairs the quality of the sleep because it has been proved that nighttime heartburn may be indicative of a more clinically significant condition.
Severe Acid Reflux
It’s a matter of time and the prolonged action of acidic refluxate causes serious damages to the esophageal mucosa.
We can talk about “severe acid reflux” when the condition goes untreated for a long time, leading to some changes in the mucous membrane of the esophagus.
At the beginnings, it may only look inflamed.
With time, however, normal mucous membrane cells change their aspect and become more like cells found in the small intestines.
This is the “start” of the most serious complications of acid reflux, namely Barrett’s esophagus.
Another important thing to understand is that esophageal cells change their aspect just because by doing so they can prevent the esophagus from further damage caused by inflammation.
Unfortunately, this aspect change makes it easier for dysplasia to occur (a condition that increases chances to develop cancer of the esophagus).
In the image below, taken from the specific study, you can see how cells can change.
As you can see, there are several passages, and prevention is totally possible.
By doing the right things, you can prevent the worsening of the situation and avoid complications as best.
IMPORTANT: Do you know the relationships between PPIs and COVID-19? Please read here to stay informed.
Severe Acid Reflux Symptoms
Heartburn is only one of the many symptoms that can accompany the acid reflux.
Personal experience is the key, meaning that not all the people who suffer from reflux are experiencing the same symptoms.
The severe reflux is generally related to the following series of symptoms:
- heartburn with more frequency and intensity, as we observed before
- a more intense burning sensation under your chest
- a significant worsening of symptoms after eating
- a low-to-no effect of medications
- significant impairment of the possibility to do physical exercise
- the almost impossibility to lie down
- a stronger sensation of acid in your mouth
- the almost impossibility to sleep for the whole night
- the presence of a scratchy voice
For people who suffer from asthma, heartburn can make it worse.
The bottom line, we can talk about severe reflux when the overall quality of life is definitely impaired and the common ways to deal with it are no longer enough.
There are some specific categories of people who are at even higher risk, such as pregnant women.
Severe Acid Reflux During Pregnancy
There are at least 47 things to remember when it comes to acid reflux and pregnancy, and we strongly suggest to read about them and take note to keep the info with you.
For what concerns more specifically severe heartburn, it has been reported that up to 76% of pregnant women may have heartburn, while another quite commonly related condition (regurgitation) is less frequent (up to 58%).
This generally occurs during the third trimester, and the most interesting thing to consider is that reflux and heartburn lead to a significant impairment of the quality of their life.
This is even more important because symptoms also occur in women with no prior record of heartburn and reflux.
By adopting the proper lifestyle, it’s possible to prevent complications and also another risk that’s worth considering.
In fact, even after childbirth, women can continue to have symptoms.
The battle against heartburn may take long.
The final goal has to be the achievement of a normal quality of life.
Totally possible, but needs consistency.
Severe Heartburn Relief
As always, we must consider the two most important aspects of the situation:
There’s a third way to consider.
It’s about protecting the esophagus from inflammation and, more in general, from all consequences of the acidic aggression determined by reflux.
To this end, there are three essential pillars of the action:
IMPORTANT: To know everything about the very best herbal remedies for reflux, you can find all that you need here.
Home remedies for severe heartburn
People who suffer from severe heartburn and reflux should not think that this specific situation has some special measures to take.
In other words, you must take care of acid reflux as soon as you feel symptoms, by introducing in the diet the right foods, the proper lifestyle, and some useful natural remedy to protect your esophageal mucosa from acidic aggressions.
This exactly is the main thing to do for people who know to suffer from a more severe form of reflux, just because their symptoms are related to the damage already occurring to their esophagus.
In all these cases, protecting the mucosa is mandatory to avoid complications.
The first natural remedy we suggest you try, given that personal experience and taste are important, is slippery elm.
It has great capability to soothe the damaged mucosa, and this means that despite the acidic aggression caused by the refluxate, you can feel low-to-no symptoms because your esophagus is effectively protected.
We have to say that slippery elm taste is not the best for many people, however, it’s totally worth considering, especially by people who are suffering from severe reflux.
Another great natural remedy to use in these cases is ginger, you can take it in the form of ginger tea, as well as ginger turmeric tea.
It has been reported that ginger may be the best natural remedy for people who suffer from reflux because of its anti-inflammatory properties.
That’s why we can say that the action of ginger extends the protective action of slippery elm.
Another great natural remedy to consider is turmeric.
You can take it in several forms, such as powder (but you need to take a lot of powder to get results), capsules, and also in tea form.
You can also take turmeric and ginger together to enhance their anti-inflammatory and protective action.
There are then other more common remedies, such as baking soda, apple cider vinegar, and also honey.
Talking about honey, you must be careful because of its content in sugar.
That’s why you want to take the only type of honey that’s even suggested for diabetic peoples (as a guarantee).
We are talking about the Manuka honey, a wonderful product coming from New Zealand.
It may be a little bit expensive, however, if you’re looking for the best honey to take when dealing with reflux, this is your ultimate choice.
That being said, there’s a general rule you must always remember, and that admits no exceptions.
Natural remedies are just a part of your bigger plan to achieve a normal quality of life.
Don’t forget to identify with the highest possible grade of certainty what are trigger foods for your case, and eliminate them from your diet ASAP.
To summarize, there are at least 27 takeaways to remember:
Keep in mind that severe heartburn is a serious condition, and the main goal for people who know to suffer from reflux (at any stage) is not to reach this level of danger.
That’s why working on the three pillars (eating habits, lifestyle, and natural remedies) is so important.
They must be part of your everyday life, and this will be the best weapon to fight against the progression of this disease.
What To Do Next
If you’re looking for the best natural remedies to take when dealing with severe reflux, remember what we’ve said before.
Our TOP suggestion is to visit the page dedicated to the best herbal mixtures you can use to get rid of reflux faster.
If you are concerned about the relationships between PPIs and COVID-19, you can read here to keep informed and safe.
Slippery elm, turmeric, ginger, Manuka honey are the first line to consider if you need to protect your esophagus from aggressive acidic refluxate.
If your condition is not so severe, you still can include in your diet baking soda, apple cider vinegar and also the three above mentioned products to strengthen the protective action.
However, whatever your case may be, you have to adopt the right plan to follow, by working on eating habits and lifestyle.
The following resources are the current best programs to achieve a normal quality of life.
Full Programs For Acid Reflux
Are you looking for the best "all-in-one" natural treatments for heartburn and acid reflux?
If so, please check these complete and deep resources to learn how to treat reflux fast.
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The 5-Step System
3 Best Ingredients
The Reflux Report
Getting rid of acid reflux may not be possible, however, your quality of life can be 100% normal.
This is the realistic goal to aim for, and it is also possible for those who suffer from more severe forms of reflux.
Thanks for your attention, take action now, and keep following us for more!