For many, heartburn is what happens after we eat one too many Fruit Roll-Ups or an entire meat lover’s pizza.

According to the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders, 44% of Americans suffer from monthly heartburn, and 7% have it daily. Heartburn is generally caused by the regurgitation of gastric acid. The condition has nothing to do with the cardiovascular system; rather, it’s a pain felt in the chest due to inflammation of the esophagus.

At the junction between the stomach and esophagus is the lower esophageal sphincter, which acts as a valve that keeps food and stomach acid from rising back through the esophagus. When stomach acids rise through the esophagus, they cause inflammation, a “burning” sensation, and pressure across the chest. Other common symptoms include difficulty swallowing, chronic cough, and a nasty acid fluid accumulation at the back of the throat. 

The key to conquering heartburn is identifying what foods are most irritable to your stomach. From there, it’s about crafting a diet that can reduce stomach acids before acid reflux starts to deteriorate the esophagus.

SEE OUR MF GUIDE: Common Heartburn Triggers—And How to Fix Them >>>

If cutting out the common triggers doesn't help, see your doctor to rule out other possible—and more serious— explanations for your pain, like:

  • Angina: Angina is the warning symptom before a heart attack. This pain is usually worse with exertion and can be accompanied by shortness of breath. This is one of the big, bad diagnoses you don’t want to overlook.
  • Blood Clot in the Lungs: Called a pulmonary embolism, this can be fatal as well. The blood clot usually comes from a vein in the leg and traces to the lungs. The only way to rule this out is a CT scan. This is the other big, bad diagnosis.
  • Spasm of the Esophagus: Also known as Nutcracker Esophagus, this can be very painful and feels like squeezing or a cramp in your chest. Difficulty swallowing is another symptom. This is not dangerous.