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What does heartburn feel like?

Medically reviewed by Carmen Pope, BPharm. Last updated on Aug 31, 2023.

Official answer


Heartburn is usually felt as a burning pain rising from the stomach to the esophagus. Other symptoms may include:

  • A feeling that food is stuck behind your breastbone or feeling like there is a lump in your throat
  • Chest pain
  • Feeling sick after eating food.

Other not-so-common symptoms include:

  • Bringing food back up (regurgitation)
  • Coughing or wheezing
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Hiccups
  • Hoarseness or a noticeable change in your voice or developing a sore throat.

Heartburn is a common symptom of GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease). This is a condition caused by a weak lower esophageal sphincter (LES). The LES is a ring of muscle fibers that prevents swallowed food from moving back up the esophagus and normally remains tightly closed... until we swallow. People with heartburn and GERD have a weakened LES that allows partly digested stomach contents to leak back up the esophagus - causing symptoms.

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