10 mins read

How to Differentiate Between Gallbladder Disease and Heartburn?


medically reviewed by Dr Godmi Tresa

Dr. Bhavya

Updated on October 17, 2023

Heartburn can be a real pain in the gut! It can make you feel highly uncomfortable and sometimes frustrate you, right? If the answer is yes, then how should you improve gut health naturally? Read on to find out!

A Nirva Health client says, "I feel like something fiery is rising in my throat and abdomen. Especially if I have heavy and oily fat food."

Can acid reflux always be just an annoying symptom, or is it a sign of a more serious underlying cause like gall bladder disease?

Is there any relation between gallbladder conditions and heartburn?

Too many questions and still wondering about answers? Let's break it down.

Gallbladder disease affects a tiny organ under your liver that stores bile, which helps digest fats. You might feel abdominal pain, nausea, and even fever when something goes wrong. 

On the other hand, heartburn, also known as acid reflux, is the burning sensation in your chest and throat when stomach acid flows back into your oesophagus.

While gallbladder disease and heartburn are different, they can sometimes be related.

The heartburn you experience can be caused by some situation in your gallbladder - an increase in the acidity of your stomach due to the obstruction of bile flow to the intestine can contribute to heartburn and associated symptoms.

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Troubled Gallbladder? Unveiling the Common Conditions and Symptoms

Gallbladder conditions are those that affect the normal functioning of the gallbladder.

Some of them are 

  • Gallstones - Gallstones are small, hard deposits that form inside the gallbladder. These stones can cause various complications, including pain and inflammation. 
  • Cholecystitis - Cholecystitis is a condition where the gallbladder becomes inflamed. Gallstones or an infection in the bile ducts can result in it.
  • Biliary Colic - Biliary colic or gallbladder pain is a type of pain that occurs when the gallbladder contracts in response to a fatty meal. It is caused by gallstones that obstruct bile flow from the gallbladder.
  • Gallbladder Cancer is a rare and difficult-to-diagnose type of cancer.
  • Choledocholithiasis - Under this condition, the gallstones move away from the gallbladder and get blocked somewhere on the pathway. Further, symptoms like fever and jaundice start showing, causing severe pain, and fever may result in jaundice.
  • Biliary dyskinesia - Biliary dyskinesia occurs when the gallbladder does not function properly or empty bile as it should in emptying it.
  • Sclerosing Cholangitis - Here, the bile ducts get inflamed and scarred.
  • Gallbladder Polyps - Polyps and small finger-like growths occur inside the gallbladder.

Some of the symptoms you may face if you have gallbladder conditions you may experience are:

  • Abdominal pain: The pain is usually felt in the upper right side of the abdomen and can be severe, sharp or dull and may last several hours.
  • Nausea and vomiting: Especially after eating fatty or greasy foods.
  • Jaundice: This is a condition in which the skin and whites of the eyes turn yellow due to the buildup of bilirubin in the blood. Jaundice can indicate a more severe disease and requires immediate medical attention.
  • Fever and chills: When there is an infection in the gallbladder, you may experience these two.
  • Changes in bowel movements: Some people with gallbladder disease may experience changes in their bowel movements, such as diarrhoea or pale-coloured stools.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Gallbladder Diseases


Dealing with gallbladder diseases can be a pain. Still, it is essential to take up proper diagnosis and treatment for gall bladder conditions if you experience any of the symptoms, as it can lead to inflammation of your pancreas, paving the way to other complications.

The first step towards effective treatment is getting an accurate diagnosis.

  • Modern scanning methods like Ultrasonography, MRI, or CT can help doctors determine the type and severity of your condition quickly and easily. Gallbladder diseases can be diagnosed using simple scanning methods like Ultrasonography, MRI or CT.
  • The treatment of gall bladder conditions depends upon the type, presentation and severity.

Treatment Options 


  1. Medications: Certain medications can be used to dissolve gallstones or to reduce inflammation in the gallbladder. These can be taken orally or via injection, depending on the severity of the condition. 
  2. Surgery: The most common procedure for gallbladder disease is cholecystectomy, which involves removing the gallbladder. 
  3. Lifestyle Changes: Changing your diet, such as avoiding fatty or greasy foods and switching to a low-fat diet, can help reduce symptoms of gallbladder disease. Managing a healthy weight and regular exercise can also help prevent the development of gallstones. 

By working with your healthcare provider to develop an effective treatment plan, you can take control of your condition and get back to living your best life.


Heartburn or chest burn is when a burning sensation occurs in the chest. You can feel it in the throat or neck sometimes.

The leading cause of heartburn is GERD. 

Read about GERD in the blog

Heartburn often gets triggered by certain foods or drinks, such as:

  • Spicy foods like hot peppers, including jalapenos, spicy sauces-curry sauces, spicy sausages, pepperoni, spicy chips, popcorn, and foods containing a lot of seasoning and spices.
  • Fatty foods like fried chicken, french fries, fatty cuts of pork, beef and lamb.
  • Hot beverages like coffee, tea, caffeinated drinks, and cocktails.
  • Alcohol
  • Desserts that are rich in sugar and cream. 

It can also get triggered by;

  • Overeating,
  • Lying down after a meal
  • Wearing tight-fitting clothing around the waist.

Most cases of heartburn can be managed with lifestyle changes. You can even cope by adopting the following habits:

  • Avoiding trigger foods
  • Eating portioned meals
  • Refraining from lying down soon after eating
  • Over-the-counter antacids or acid reducers provide temporary relief. 

Gall Bladder Diseases and Heartburn

Did you know that there's a connection between heartburn and your gallbladder? That's right - these two conditions can often share similar symptoms, making it difficult to determine the root cause of your discomfort.

Dr Israa Ismail, an Ayurveda Consultant at Nirva, says;

"The bile stored in the gallbladder helps to neutralise stomach acid in the digestive process.

 If the gallbladder is not functioning correctly, there may be an imbalance of bile and stomach acid, leading to acid reflux and heartburn."

When your gallbladder is not functioning correctly, it can lead to digestive problems that may cause heartburn. Gallstones, for instance, can block the flow of bile and cause inflammation, leading to abdominal pain, nausea, and even vomiting - symptoms often mistaken for heartburn.

However, it's important to note that not all cases of heartburn are related to the gallbladder. Other potential causes include GERD, hiatal hernia, and various digestive disorders.

If you are experiencing persistent or severe heartburn, you must talk to your healthcare provider to determine the underlying cause and appropriate treatment.

5 Points to Differentiate Gallbladder Conditions from Heartburn

Gallbladder disease and heartburn can have similar symptoms, making it difficult to differentiate between them.

However, some key differences can help you identify which condition you may be experiencing. 

Tips to differentiate - Gallbladder disease vs heartburn

  • Location of pain: Gallbladder pain is typically located in the upper right side of the abdomen, while you can feel heartburn pain in the lower chest area.
  • Nature of pain: Gallbladder pain is often described as a sharp or cramping pain, while heartburn pain is usually a burning or gnawing sensation.
  • Triggers: Eating fatty or greasy foods can trigger gallbladder pain, while spicy or acidic foods often trigger heartburn.
  • Associated symptoms: Gallbladder disease may be associated with nausea and vomiting, fever, and yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice), while heartburn may be associated with regurgitation, a sour taste in the mouth, and a feeling of fullness in the stomach.
  • Timing: Gallbladder pain often occurs after meals, especially fatty meals, while heartburn pain can occur anytime but may be worse after eating or lying down.

It can be tricky to distinguish between gallbladder disease and heartburn because they have similar symptoms. These critical points can help you tell the difference.

Why is Proper Diagnosis Important?

As asymptomatic and less the problem may seem with gallbladder conditions, the more you must know why you must get it evaluated by your doctor.

Gallbladder conditions are usually asymptomatic; therefore, a timely diagnosis of gallbladder diseases is crucial;

  • Accurate treatment
  • Prevention of complications
  • Quality of life
  • Avoiding unnecessary surgical procedures

Some of the complications that may occur if you neglect gallbladder diseases are;

  • Gallbladder inflammation (cholecystitis)
  • Bile duct blockage
  • Pancreatitis
  • Inflammation of gallbladder ducts (Cholangitis)
  • Gallbladder perforation
  • Death of gallbladder tissue (Gangrene)
  • Gallbladder cancer
  • Gallbladder polyps
  • Abscess
  • Abnormal connection between two organs ( Fistula)
  • Collection of pus in the cavity (Empyema) 
  • Whole body infection (Sepsis)

Proper diagnosis is crucial when it comes to gallbladder diseases because it can have a significant impact on your overall quality of life. At the same time, it may seem like a minor issue at first, but neglecting to get a proper diagnosis and treatment can lead to severe complications that can be painful, uncomfortable, and even life-threatening.

For example, if left untreated, gallbladder diseases can lead to inflammation, blockages, and infections in the bile ducts, pancreas, and other organs. This can cause severe pain, fever and even result in the death of the gallbladder tissue. In some cases, it may even lead to the development of gallbladder cancer or other complications requiring surgery.

By getting a proper diagnosis and treatment, you can avoid these serious complications and improve your overall quality of life. You can reduce pain and discomfort, improve your digestion and reduce the risk of developing other health problems. So, if you are experiencing any symptoms of gallbladder disease, it is essential to see your doctor as soon as possible.

When to Seek Help from Your Doctor

The frequent heartburn you have been taking over-the-counter medications may not always be from your spicy go-to meal.

There might be several underlying conditions stopping your body from being fully functional. Do not ignore these warning signs:

  • Pain in the upper right or upper middle part of the abdomen that may radiate to the back or right shoulder blade
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Indigestion or heartburn
  • Bloating or gas
  • Feeling full after eating only a small amount of food
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes)
  • Clay-coloured stools
  • Dark urine

Suppose you experience pain in the upper right or upper middle of your abdomen that radiates to your back or right shoulder blade, along with nausea, vomiting, indigestion, bloating, or gas. In that case, it's time to seek help from a doctor.

Ignoring these symptoms could lead to more severe health problems, such as jaundice, clay-coloured stools, or dark urine. 

To Wrap It All Up

In conclusion, while heartburn and gallbladder disease can cause similar symptoms, it is essential to differentiate between them to receive proper treatment.

Gallbladder disease can lead to potentially serious complications, including infection, inflammation, and gallstones. 

Seeking medical attention and obtaining an accurate diagnosis is crucial in managing symptoms and preventing complications.

Treatment options may include medications, lifestyle changes, or surgery. 

Individuals with gallbladder disease or heartburn can achieve optimal symptom relief and improve their overall quality of life by seeking medical help from a qualified medical practitioner.

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