Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

Eating chillies can trigger heartburn.

Eating chillies can trigger heartburn.
beginning of content

Heartburn (indigestion)

Heartburn (a form of indigestion or reflux) is a feeling of burning pain or discomfort in the chest, usually after eating.

The pain typically worsens when you are lying down or bending over.

Heartburn that is mild and occasional can usually be managed with lifestyle changes and over-the-counter medications. In more serious cases, other treatment may be needed.

What causes heartburn?

Normally, a ring of muscle at the end of the oesophagus (the tube connecting your mouth to your stomach) relaxes to let food in, and tightens to prevent stomach acid from escaping.

However, if the muscle relaxes when it shouldn’t, or is weak, stomach acid is able to rise up into the oesophagus where it can cause pain and irritation.

Common triggers for heartburn

Some people experience heartburn regardless of what they eat. Others find they only get it after eating certain foods or meals. Common triggers for heartburn include:

  • large meals
  • fatty or spicy foods
  • coffee and cola drinks
  • citrus foods
  • alcohol
  • chocolate
  • cigarettes
  • peppermints.

Other things that can increase your risk of heartburn are:

Looking after yourself

If you have heartburn, there are some lifestyle changes that may help prevent it, or at least manage the symptoms.

These include:

  • eating smaller, more frequent meals instead of large meals
  • avoiding any foods you know trigger heartburn
  • avoiding lying down soon after a meal
  • losing weight, if you are overweight
  • stopping smoking, if you smoke.

You may also want to try over-the-counter medicines called antacids, which neutralise stomach acid. If you are pregnant, check with your doctor or pharmacist if these medications are safe for you to take.

When to see a doctor about heartburn or indigestion

If over-the-counter treatments don't work, or you rely on them often, see your doctor. Persistent heartburn may be a symptom of gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD), in which case you may need prescription medicines or, rarely, surgery.

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners recommends that you discuss any medication you are taking for GORD or heartburn with your doctor or specialist to assess the possibility of reducing your dose or stopping the medication if safe to do so. For further information, visit the Choosing Wisely Australia website.

Read about other symptoms of GORD.

If you experience chest pain and have any doubt about whether it is heartburn or a heart attack, seek immediate medical attention by calling triple zero (000).

Last reviewed: July 2015

Recommended links

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Found 619 results

Heartburn - myDr.com.au

Heartburn is a common form of indigestion caused by gastro-oesophageal reflux - reflux of stomach contents into the oesophagus (gullet).

Read more on myDr website

Heartburn treatments - myDr.com.au

Treatment for heartburn will depend on how often your heartburn occurs and how much it impacts on your life. Treatments include antacids, medicines or surgery, as well as self-help measures.

Read more on myDr website

Heartburn in Pregnancy | myVMC

Heartburn is a symptom commonly experienced by pregnant women such that some women and obstetricians even consider it to be a normal occurrence in a healthy pregnancy.

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Heartburn in pregnancy | Parenthub

Pregnancy might be a beautiful miracle but it can also be an uncomfortable one, especially when you are experiencing the worst heartburn of your life. And though we may not be able to help you with arguments over baby names or even 'cankles', we can help you with ins and outs of heartburn ... pun intended.

Read more on Parenthub website

Acid Reflux and Heartburn | myVMC

Heartburn or acid reflux is a symptom of the disorder gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD). It is described as a gripping discomfort situated below the breast bone.

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Salpraz Heartburn Relief Tablets - myDr.com.au

Salpraz Heartburn Relief Tablets - Consumer Medicines Information leaflets of prescription and over-the-counter medicines

Read more on myDr – Consumer Medicine Information website

Somac Heartburn Relief Tablets - myDr.com.au

Somac Heartburn Relief Tablets - Consumer Medicines Information leaflets of prescription and over-the-counter medicines

Read more on myDr – Consumer Medicine Information website

Maxor Heartburn Relief Capsules - myDr.com.au

Maxor Heartburn Relief Capsules - Consumer Medicines Information leaflets of prescription and over-the-counter medicines

Read more on myDr – Consumer Medicine Information website

Suvacid Heartburn Relief Tablets - myDr.com.au

Suvacid Heartburn Relief Tablets - Consumer Medicines Information leaflets of prescription and over-the-counter medicines

Read more on myDr – Consumer Medicine Information website

APO-Pantoprazole Heartburn Relief Tablets - myDr.com.au

APO-Pantoprazole Heartburn Relief Tablets - Consumer Medicines Information leaflets of prescription and over-the-counter medicines

Read more on myDr – Consumer Medicine Information website

Check your symptoms Find a health service

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice and information you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo
Feedback