Heartburn and Indigestion – What are the Differences?

Heartburn and indigestion are two separate conditions that are often conflated. This is because both conditions affect the gastrointestinal tract and often co-occur.

Heartburn is a burning pain in the chest that is caused by acidic fluid from the stomach traveling up the esophagus into the mouth. Indigestion (also called dyspepsia) describes a range of symptoms, which may include heartburn, that leave an uncomfortable feeling in the upper abdomen.

How can you tell which of the two conditions you are experiencing next time? A good way is to start by looking at the main symptoms of both conditions.

Symptoms of heartburn vs. symptoms of indigestion

There are many differences between how heartburn and indigestion manifest. The reason it is difficult for most people to spot this is that they appear at the same time in many situations.

Heartburn symptoms usually concentrate in the chest while indigestion symptoms typically concentrate in the abdominal area. Here are the major differences between them.

Heartburn is characterized by [1]:

  • A burning sensation in the chest
  • Chest pain
  • Abnormal flow of stomach acid into the esophagus (acid reflux)
  • Painful swallowing due to acidic action on the esophagus
  • Sour taste in the mouth

Indigestion symptoms include [2]:

  • Burning sensation in the upper abdomen
  • Abdominal pain
  • Feelings of nausea
  • Bloating and feeling within a short time when eating
  • Passing out too much gas
  • Excessive burping

There are places where both conditions overlap. For example, symptoms of both conditions get worse when you lie down or bend over.