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Heartburn or ulcer … can you tell the difference?

When you feel a burning sensation in your gut, it could be a case of heartburn or an ulcer. Can you tell the difference?

The main way to do this is to pinpoint where the pain is coming from. The location of the pain is one of the easiest ways to tell whether stomach discomfort is more likely to be heartburn or an ulcer. Ulcer pain tends to occur in the abdominal area — especially just above the navel. Those experiencing heartburn (including the more serious form of heartburn — gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD) typically feel pain in the chest and throat.

Here is another way to distinguish between the two. Often, eating certain foods makes stomach ulcers feel better but they can make heartburn and GERD symptoms worse. Heartburn is the more common of these disorders, and it can be brought on by eating spicy foods or certain tomato products, especially tomato sauces used on pasta.

Fortunately there are many over-the-counter medicines ? primarily labeled as antacids — that can soothe the milder forms of heartburn. Sleeping or just reclining with a wedge pillow until the discomfort passes may help, also. But if heartburn or ulcers persist and cause frequent pain, see your doctor.