Frequent Causes of Heartburn

Posted: Jun 13 in Surgery Blog tagged by Staff

There’s nothing fun about heartburn. For patients that suffer from frequent heartburn or Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), the burning, nausea and the sensation that stomach acid is coming up into your throat turns a delicious meal into a culinary nightmare.

Determining the cause of your heartburn can be difficult. Everyone is different, and what causes heartburn for you may leave your friends unscathed. For many people, a combination of factors (eating too much, too quickly) and trigger foods (a few alcoholic drinks with a greasy, fried meal) leads to the real pain. To help you determine the culprits, here are ten common heartburn causes.

  1. Alcohol. Alcohol relaxes the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), which increases the chance that stomach acid will enter your throat, causing the painful burning sensation known as heartburn. Alcohol also increases the production of stomach acid. While a few drinks may not bother you, in combination with other triggers, like fatty, fried foods, you may end up with a nasty case of heartburn.
  2. Caffeine. Just like alcohol, caffeine relaxes the LES, making it easy for stomach acid to find its way out of your stomach and into your esophagus.
  3. Chocolate. In addition to caffeine, chocolate also contains the naturally-occurring compound theobromine, which relaxes the LES.
  4. Citrus fruits and juices. Citrus fruits, like oranges and grapefruit, relax the LES. Simple changes like cutting out your morning orange juice can make a big difference for heartburn sufferers.
  5. Fried and fatty foods. These foods take longer for your body to digest, so they linger in your stomach and increase pressure on the LES.
  6. Large meals. Eating too much too fast is never a good idea. The more food that’s in your stomach, the longer it will take to digest, increasing the opportunity for a trigger food to cause heartburn. A full stomach also puts extra pressure on the LES, making it that much easier for acid to reflux.
  7. Late-night meals. Try to eat your dinner early enough so that you give your body a minimum of three hours to digest the food, and just say no to late-night drive-thru cravings. Lying down with a full stomach causes food to press against the LES, which can lead to heartburn.
  8. Tobacco. Chemicals found in tobacco smoke weaken the LES when they pass from your lungs into the bloodstream. Just one more reason to kick this unhealthy habit!
  9. Tomatoes and tomato-based products. These foods relax the LES. While a tomato slice on your sandwich may not cause a problem, drinking tomato juice, snacking on a pizza slathered in sauce (along with melted cheese and pepperoni) or eating pasta with a heavy tomato sauce can lead to heartburn.
  10. Too-tight clothes. You may feel they help you achieve that five-pound lighter look, but slenderizing undergarments and tight belts constrict your stomach, forcing food up against the LES. Instead of using tight stockings or corsets to appear slimmer, try actually losing those extra five pounds, as weight loss helps relieve heartburn too!

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