Heartburn is a burning feeling in the chest caused by stomach acid travelling up towards the throat.1

Causes & Symptoms

Heartburn, also known as acid reflux, usually happens after meals, when lying down or during the night.1

The symptoms of heartburn include:1-3

  • A burning sensation or discomfort in the centre of your chest/lower breastbone after eating. You may feel the burning pain rising up your foodpipe (the oesophagus) into your throat
  • A sour tasting fluid in the mouth, this is called regurgitation
  • Difficulty swallowing or finding it painful or uncomfortable to swallow
  • Feeling sick

You should contact your doctor if you have had difficulty swallowing for more than a week, a persistent cough or coughing up blood, you are vomiting or have lost weight without trying.4

Why heartburn happens

Your stomach has a thick muscular ring to separate it from the bottom of your oesophagus.1 This is called the oesophageal sphincter and it acts like a one-way valve, making sure that whatever you eat stays in your stomach.1

But, sometimes, this sphincter doesn’t work quite as well as it should, so your stomach contents flow the wrong way and leak back up into your oesophagus.1 This causes the heartburn symptoms you know so well. In most cases, these symptoms are due to stomach acids irritating the sensitive lining of your oesophagus.1,2,5 Another name for it is acid reflux.

There are many different reasons why this can happen and one of the most common is what you eat. So, if you want to help put a halt to your heartburn, it pays to know which foods are best avoided.

Which foods cause heartburn?

Some foods cause the oesophageal sphincter valve to relax and open, giving stomach acid the chance to escape and cause pain, or they act as heartburn triggers:2,3,6

  • Fatty foods – these also increase the length of time acids work in the stomach, raising the risk of acid reflux
  • Spicy foods
  • Coffee
  • Alcohol
  • Chocolate
  • Tomatoes
  • Citrus fruits
  • Peppermint

Sometimes it’s not what you eat that’s the problem, but how you eat. Eating large meals or eating too quickly can also be heartburn triggers.2, 3

And heartburn is not always food-related either. Stress and excess weight are also contributing factors, so losing weight and getting plenty of exercise can help.2, 5 Even being pregnant can increase the chances of heartburn – find out more on our pregnancy page.2

That said, you don’t have to put your life on hold because of heartburn - and we’re here to help.


Around 1 in 4 people in the UK experience heartburn and, of these, almost 80% have night-time symptoms.1, 6This can really disrupt your sleep, especially as heartburn at night can be worse than during the day.1 Not only that, 4 out of 10 people feel heartburn at night affects their ability to get on with everyday living the following day.7 One of the reasons for this is that lying down makes it easier for the acid to travel up your throat and make your symptoms feel worse.1

  • Eating large meals.2 Switching from having three large meals a day to eating smaller meals more than three times a day means there is less for your stomach to digest and so eases your heartburn.2
  • Fatty foods. Foods high in fat can be a heartburn trigger.2,4
  • Stress and anxiety. Did you know that stress can cause heartburn and make it feel worse too?2,4 That’s because stress makes us more sensitive to
  • Drinking alcohol. Alcohol relaxes the oesophageal sphincter (the ring of muscle between the stomach and foodpipe that acts as a one-way valve to protect you from acid), making it easy for stomach acids to leak back up.1,5
  • Smoking. Like alcohol, nicotine relaxes the oesophageal sphincter, increasing the likelihood of acids refluxing up from your stomach.6

Lifestyle is always an important consideration. Quitting smoking, watching what you eat, having smaller meals more often (avoid eating 3-4 hours before bed) and taking steps to reduce stress can all help.2 If heartburn is a problem at night, try and raise the head of your bed a little by placing a wooden block under it (don’t use extra pillows as they can put extra pressure on your stomach).2 In the interim, Gaviscon is designed to help. Gaviscon creates a protective layer on top of your stomach acid that protects you from the potential harms of heartburn – and it even works when you are lying down or sleeping.9


In addition to identifying and avoiding your heartburn triggers, there are medicines you can buy over-the-counter, such as Gaviscon, that can help ease your symptoms. Among the most commonly used medicines are ones containing alginates and antacids.

Gaviscon products contain a natural ingredient, sodium alginate, that forms a protective layer at the top of your stomach once it comes into contact with stomach acids.9  This acts like a stop barrier to help prevent stomach acids flowing back up into your foodpipe and so giving you the heartburn relief you need.9

Gaviscon products also contain antacids, which turn excess acid into water, neutralising their harmful effects.2

By combining the two, you can enjoy powerful relief, helping you take your life off pause as Gaviscon products start acting instantly.10

How much Gaviscon you should take depends on your age:

  • In adults and children over 12 years, take 10-20ml of the liquid formulation after meals and at bedtime.10 If you are using Gaviscon Peppermint Chewable Tablets take 2-4 tablets after meals and at bedtime, up to four times per day12
  • In children aged 6-12 years of age: 5-10mls of the liquid formulation after meals and at bedtime.9

All information presented is not meant to diagnose or prescribe. If symptoms are severe or prolonged you should consult a doctor or pharmacist.

Gaviscon Liquid Peppermint Flavour, Gaviscon Liquid Aniseed Flavour, Gaviscon Peppermint Chewable Tablets, Gaviscon Extra Oral Suspension, Gaviscon Extra Chewable Tablets, Gaviscon Extra Liquid Sachets contain sodium alginate, sodium bicarbonate and calcium carbonate for heartburn and indigestion. Always read the label.

Gaviscon Advance Oral Suspension 300ml & 600ml contain sodium alginate and potassium hydrogen carbonate for heartburn and indigestion. Always read the label.

Gaviscon Infant Powder for Oral Suspension contains sodium alginate and magnesium alginate for regurgitation and gastric reflux. Always read the label.

Date of preparation: June 2021. RB-M-43639


  1. Guts UK. Heartburn and acid reflux. Accessed November 2020. https://gutscharity.org.uk/advice-and-information/symptoms/heartburn-and-reflux/.
  2. Health Service Executive. Acid reflux. Accessed November 2020. https://www.hse.ie/eng/health/az/a/acid-reflux/.
  3. Basu KK. The Prescriber, 2012; August; 19-26.
  4. Health Service executive. Cancer, oesophageal cancer. Accessed November 2020. https://www.hse.ie/eng/health/az/c/cancer,-oesophageal/.
  5. Hungin APS, et al. Am J Gastroenterol, 2019;114:414–4.
  6. Nwokediuko SC. ISRN Gastro, 2012: Article ID 391631.
  7. Shaker R, et al. Am J Gastroenterol. 2003;8:1487-93.
  8. Lee HS, et al. Neurogastroenterol Motil 2017;23:72-79.
  9. Gaviscon Liquid Peppermint Flavour. Summary of Product Characteristics. Accessed July 2021 https://www.medicines.ie/medicines/gaviscon-liquid-peppermint-flavour-32244/patient-info.
  10. Strugala V, et al. Int J Med Res, 2010;38:449-457.
  11. Gaviscon Peppermint Chewable Tablets. Summary of Product Characteristics. Accessed June 2021 https://www.medicines.ie/medicines/gaviscon-peppermint-chewable-tablets-32247/patient-info.

Frequent Sufferers

Repeatedly suffering from heartburn? Don’t let it put your life on pause.


Our bodies use stomach acid to break down the contents of food, and we have a valve or “gate” where our stomach meets our foodpipe (also known as our oesophagus).1 Occasionally, the acid does get through this valve and flows back up into our foodpipe, causing heartburn symptoms.1 Although it’s a problem that can affect people of any age, it’s more common if you are older as this valve gets weaker with age.2,3 If you’re finding that your heartburn is becoming more frequent or it’s interfering with your life, then speak to your doctor as they will be able to prescribe medicines that can help. Until then, have a look at your diet to see if there is anything you can change, or lose weight (if you need to) and stop smoking – all of which can help your heartburn.2

Suffering from heartburn regularly? Dealing with a burning feeling in your chest after eating? Finding this a troublesome problem?4 You might have what’s known as gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GORD.

Heartburn is the main symptom of GORD.1 Instead of being an occasional problem, when your heartburn becomes regular enough that you find it a real bother, that’s when it becomes medically classified as GORD.4  

If this is the case for you, you should speak to your doctor for advice and treatment. Although most people with GORD can be easily treated, it can lead to more serious complications, such as ulcers, bleeding and changes in the oesophagus, so it’s always best to get repeated, regular heartburn checked out.2

The good news is that you can get control over GORD with simple lifestyle changes, such as changing what you eat and drink, and medicines from your doctor.2


  1. Guts UK. Heartburn and acid reflux. Accessed November 2020. https://gutscharity.org.uk/advice-and-information/symptoms/heartburn-and-reflux/.
  2. Health Service Executive. Acid reflux. Accessed November 2020. https://www.hse.ie/eng/health/az/a/acid-reflux/.
  3. Lee J, et al. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2007 Dec;5(12):1392-8.
  4. Hungin APS, et al. Am J Gastroenterol, 2019;114:414–4.