How To Tell The Difference Between Heartburn And Gallbladder?

The gallbladder is a relatively small organ located directly beneath our liver in the upper right abdomen and is responsible for storing the bile that our liver creates. If the pouch’s tube gets blocked, the bile won’t be able to flow into the small intestine. Instead, it will cause the gallbladder to spasm, inflicting several consequences on our bodies.

A gallbladder attack and heartburn can often be confused with one another due to their oddly similar symptoms, but no scientific evidence indicates a link between them.

A gallbladder attack and heartburn occur due to entirely different reasons. Heartburn might be related to acid reflux and the flow of stomach acids into the esophagus; however, the gallbladder is related to excess bile build-up and inability to flow outwards.

Causes: Heartburn vs. Gallbladder


Even though occasional heartburns are entirely normal, their frequent occurrence is something that you should instantly discuss with your doctor. The reason for recurring heartburn can be the development of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) in our bodies. GERD/ acid reflux can happen for several reasons, and it is reported to have severe discomfort.

It happens when a significant valve known as the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) is disrupted naturally or due to a complication in some medical procedure.

This disturbance causes pressure on our abdomen and results in stomach acid flowing backward in our esophagus. The reflux of these acids causes an extremely irritating and burning sensation in our chest, known as heartburn. Heartburn can also occur due to obesity, smoking, or pregnancy.

Gallbladder Attack

The pear-shaped organ gallbladder stores bile, a combination of cholesterol, fat, and fluids. Our body develops bile so that solid foods can be easily broken down and entered into the bloodstream through the small intestine when necessary.

A gallbladder attack can occur if the bile builds up and creates a lump, mainly if you have developed cholecystitis. The gallstones will block the tube and restrict the outflow of bile, causing the gallbladder to spasm and cause severe gallbladder pain. It can also happen due to common bile duct problems, infections, or tumors. 

The common risk factors for developing chronic gallbladder disease are in diabetic patients, obese people with excess weight, women over 40 who have had children, and someone who had rapid weight loss.

The causes can be further understood by listening to Dr. Erin halt’s podcast, a professional nutritionist with decades of experience. The highly comprehensive podcast is linked below.

A Gutsy Girl: Gallbladder vs Heartburn {Episode 52 … – Apple Podcasts

See also: Is Soy Sauce Bad For Acid Reflux? (Answered)

Symptoms: Heartburn vs. Gallbladder


The common symptoms of gallbladder and heartburn can be nausea and upper abdomen pain, but other than that, it is unlikely the two will have similar symptoms.

A heartburn-like pain may occur mostly after eating, and it may cause you severe discomfort in lying down or bending over. Heartburn may also make it difficult to swallow food substances or liquids.

It may also be hard to sleep at night due to sharp chest pain lasting from 10-15 minutes to straight hours.

The most common symptom of heartburn is an acidic and sour taste in the back of your throat and sometimes even in your mouth. If you have developed asthma or your existing one has worsened, causing you chronic pain. It may also be a symptom of heartburn.


Meanwhile, common gallbladder problems have divergent symptoms. They may vary from excruciating pain traveling up your back and the right shoulder blade to sharp pain in your upper abdomen and stomach.

This severe pain may last from 15 minutes to even hours, depending on the severity of your condition.

It is reported that more of the common gallbladder symptoms in patients have been complaints of gas, dark urine, chronic diarrhea, and rapid heartbeat. In the long term, it can result in inflammation of the gallbladder.

Treatment options: Heartburn vs. Gallbladder

As discussed above, gallbladder disease and heartburn are entirely different. They happen due to various reasons and have other symptoms and consequences. With that in sight, it is evident that their treatment options and methods will be different as well.

However, both these are chronic diseases and require immediate medical attention. Hence, if you have experienced the listed symptoms frequently, you should consult a general surgeon after taking your ct scan and blood tests. They can diagnose your disease and the severity of your symptoms and advise you on the best treatment. 

Treatment For Heartburn

The most common advice and treatment for recurring heartburn are simply changing your dietary behavior. It is usually triggered by the consumption of fatty foods, alcohol, acidic substances, and spicy food, so if you limit their consumption and instead focus on losing weight, the symptoms can be repressed to a great degree.

If that doesn’t work, prescribed medication can be taken to ease the pain and discomforting effects. Medicines might include h2 blockers and counter medications that will neutralize stomach acids.

In extremely severe cases where GERD is proven to be the primary cause of heartburn, surgeries and other medical procedures can be performed, such as the insertion of a Linx device or gastric bypass that will remove the pyloric valve in your stomach to reduce pressure on the abdomen and make it easier for LES to function. Further treatment options for GERD can be seen below:

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) Treatment

Treatment Options For Gallbladder Disease

Gallbladder problems can be solved by medicines containing chemicals such as ursodiol or chenodiol. These chemicals are known to thin the bile contents and dissolve gallstones.

Patients are advised to adopt a healthy diet and consume low-fat dairy products, fruits, and vegetables. However, The most permanent solution to rid yourself of gallbladder disease and its life-threatening consequences is to have a cholecystectomy. It is the process of having your gallbladder removed completely through minimal surgery.

There is nothing to worry about since it’s proven that a person can live without a gallbladder without any consequences. It is the most effective and possibly the best solution for gallbladder disease.

Because both heartburn and gallbladder disease causes a very similar type of upper abdominal pain in your stomach, it is understandable why the two conditions might be confused and why you might find it difficult to differentiate between them.

However, suppose you only identify that single leading symptom. In that case, it is impossible to determine the difference between heartburn and gallbladder, which is why it is essential to understand that they both have several other and very distinguishable symptoms too.

So, if you can’t self-diagnose the cause of your abdominal pain, look for other similar symptoms and consult your doctor immediately, as they can both have severe effects if left neglected. Moreover, you can also tell the difference by the location and intensity of the pain.

See also: Is Mushrooms Good For Acid Reflux?

Gallbladder vs. Heartburn Summary

You can avoid gallbladder issues, heartburn, and other health problems by making dietary changes. Avoiding fatty meals like fast food, known to cause severe problems with health, is always recommended.

But when unexplainable pain appears, contact your doctor as fast as possible.