Heartburn 101: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Learn about what causes frequent heartburn, the symptoms you may experience, and the treatment options available to manage your heartburn.

A majority of Americans experience heartburn – the uncomfortable feeling of acid in the swallowing tube or esophagus. While heartburn is common, the causes of heartburn, its symptoms and its treatment options can vary. Find answers to what may be causing your frequent heartburn, what the symptoms of heartburn are, and what treatment options are available to you to ease the burning and get you back to normal.

Heartburn causes 


  • Alcohol may relax your lower esophageal sphincter, which is what stops acid from rising from your stomach and into your esophagus.

  • Spicy foods, like pepper, garlic and raw onions, can increase the production of stomach acid, heightening your heartburn symptoms.

  • Caffeine signals your stomach to start producing excess acid while simultaneously relaxing your lower esophageal sphincter, which is why drinking coffee can trigger heartburn. 


  • Eating right before bed can cause heartburn at night because lying down may cause stomach acid to flow upward instead of downward. 

  • Being overweight or obese can put excess pressure on your stomach, which can cause a backflow of stomach acid.

  • Smoking both irritates your esophagus and relaxes your lower esophageal sphincter. 


While some know exactly what causes their frequent heartburn, like consuming particular foods or eating right before bed, many people lead a very healthy lifestyle and maintain a gut-friendly diet, but still get heartburn. Often, heartburn has no clear cause. Consider using our Prilosec OTC Trigger Tracker to help identify any easily identifiable causes.

Heartburn symptoms 

  • A burning feeling behind the breastbone 

  • Chest pain, especially after eating

  • A burning, sour or acidic taste in the back of the throat 

Heartburn treatments 

For occasional heartburn,  can greatly help. But, if you suffer from heartburn two or more days a week and are still looking for answers on how to treat heartburn, Prilosec OTC can help. 

Prilosec OTC is the #1 doctor recommended OTC frequent heartburn medication (for 13 years straight)†^ because it stops frequent heartburn before it starts*. If you have frequent heartburn, talk to your doctor about starting a heartburn medication. 

†^IQVIA ProVoice™ Survey, Jan 2005 – Mar 2018 

*It’s possible while taking Prilosec OTC®. Use as directed for 14 days to treat frequent heartburn. Do not take more than 14 days or more often than once every four months unless directed by a doctor. May take 1-4 days for full effect. 


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