The Most Frequent Causes of Heartburn

There are Several Different Causes of Heartburn

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There are several different causes of heartburn. There are several that are the most frequent causes of heartburn. Finding out what these are can help you make changes in your lifestyle and habit so you can prevent the acid reflux from happening.

What is Heartburn?

Heartburn is a burning pain in your chest, just behind your breastbone. The pain is often worse when lying down or bending over. Occasional heartburn is common and no cause for alarm.

Most people can manage the discomfort of heartburn on their own with lifestyle changes and over-the-counter medications.

Heartburn that is more frequent or interferes with your daily routine may be a symptom of a more serious condition that requires medical care.

Symptoms of Heartburn

Symptoms of heartburn include:

  • A burning pain in the chest that usually occurs after eating and may occur at night
  • Pain that worsens when lying down or bending over

Top 10 Causes of Heartburn

Coffee, tea, and other drinks that contain caffeine
Caffeine can relax the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), allowing stomach contents to reflux into the esophagus.

Chocolate contains concentrations of theobromine (a compound that occurs naturally in many plants such as cocoa, tea and coffee plants), which relaxes the esophageal sphincter muscle, letting stomach acid squirt up into the esophagus.

Fried and fatty foods
These foods tend to slow down digestion, keeping the food in your stomach longer.

This can result in increases pressure in the stomach, which in turn puts more pressure on a weakened LES, allowing reflux of stomach contents.

Tomatoes and tomato-based products
These foods relax the lower esophageal sphincter (LES).

Alcohol relaxes the lower esophageal sphincter, allowing the reflux of stomach contents into the esophagus.

It also increases the production of stomach acid.

The chemicals in cigarette smoke weaken the LES as they pass from the lungs into the blood.

Large meals
A full stomach can put extra pressure on the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), which will increase the chance that some of this food will reflux into the esophagus.

Citrus fruits and juices
These foods relax the lower esophageal sphincter (LES).

Eating within 2 to 3 hours prior to bedtime
Lying down with a full stomach can cause stomach contents to press harder against the LES, increasing the chances of refluxed food.

Wearing tight fitting clothing
Clothing that fits tightly around the abdomen will squeeze the stomach, forcing food up against the LES, and cause food to reflux into the esophagus. Clothing that can cause problems include tight-fitting belts and slenderizing undergarments.

When to see a doctor

Seek immediate help if you experience severe chest pain or pressure, especially when combined with other signs and symptoms such as pain in the arm or jaw or difficulty breathing. 

Make an appointment with your doctor if:

  • Heartburn occurs more than twice a week
  • Symptoms persist despite use of over-the-counter medications
  • You have difficulty swallowing
  • You have persistent nausea or vomiting
  • You have weight loss because of poor appetite or difficulty eating

Related Information:

  • Foods With Little Risk of Causing Heartburn
  • Foods To Be Consumed with Discretion
  • Foods To Be Limited
  • Heartburn and Alcohol
  • Heartburn and Smoking
  • Easing Nighttime Heartburn

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