Heartburn or Stomach Ulcer – Some Key Differences

Stomach ulcers and heartburn are two common conditions frequently experienced by people all over the world. However, many people mistake these two uncomfortable conditions when they are actually quite different.

One of the primary differences is that stomach ulcers are primarily caused by the H pylori bacteria. This bacteria makes its home in the lining of the stomach and small intestine and significantly increases the risk of an ulcer. While the exact mechanism is not known, H pylori creates inflammation in some way which weakens the lining of the stomach and intestine and allows stomach acid and digestive enzymes to damage the lining.

The cause of heartburn on the other hand is usually much more benign. Heartburn is caused simply when stomach acid leaves the stomach and enters the esophagus. A lot of things can cause heartburn, even overeating. If the stomach is pressured from overeating food it is a lot easier for food and acid to leak out of the stomach and into the esophagus.

Ulcers on the other hand are much like an open sore in the stomach or small intestine. Because of this, they are frequently irritated by stomach acid. Ulcers actually feel better after eating because the pH of food is much more soothing than that of an empty stomach. This is completely different from heartburn as heartburn almost always peaks after eating.

Another key difference between heartburn and stomach ulcers is that stomach ulcers really do not depend on body position whereas heartburn symptoms are easily manipulated. For example, if you lie down or bend over, heartburn almost always gets worse. This is because when you are standing or sitting up, gravity helps keep what belongs in the stomach in the stomach. When you lay down or bend over, gravity can actually help pull acid out of the stomach and create heartburn. Ulcers on the other hand are pretty consistent and typically can only be improved by eating.

Heartburn can typically be reduced significantly just by eating a healthier diet, avoiding alcohol, and losing weight. On the other hand, since most ulcers are caused by a bacterial infection, it is important to visit your doctor in order to get a diagnostic test performed. If H pylori has been found to be the cause of your stomach ulcer, only antibiotic treatment can get rid of it. You cannot simply change your lifestyle or diet and expect an ulcer to go away.