Many people have felt the singe of heartburn’s fiery presence. Heartburn is the main symptom of acid reflux. This is when stomach acid manages to reverse itself back up into the esophagus, irritating the tissues within. This leads to that trademark burning sensation in the stomach near the heart, thus the name heartburn.
Heartburn is common. In many cases it’s just an occasional nuisance. Many people may eat something which reacts poorly with their stomach acid and have to deal with heartburn as a result. Heartburn gets more serious when it becomes a chronic condition. Seemingly each bout of heartburn returns more easily than the case before. In these cases, knowing how heartburn is being caused and what to do is important.
Causes of Heartburn
Heartburn is caused by the backup of stomach acid into the esophagus. The lower esophageal sphincter is the buffer between the esophagus and the stomach. If this sphincter relaxes for any reason, then the stomach acid will flow back up and force people to feel heartburn. This can be worse depending on the position a person is in. People who are bent over or lying on their back can suffer worse than others.
Unsurprisingly, diet plays a big role in heartburn. The foods we as people choose to consume can react with stomach acid in a big way. Some of the main food based causes of heartburn include:
- Spicy Food - Spicy foods are one of the most common food causes of heartburn. Too much spice quite simply causes the acid to push back.
- Citrus Fruit and Products - Oranges, lemons and grapefruit are all very high in acid, including citric acid. This additional acid can throw off the balance in the stomach.
- Fried Fatty Foods - Fried foods like onion rings, french fries and corn dogs are known to cause issues with heartburn.
- Peppermint - While a delicious and fresh tasting treat, peppermint can exacerbate heartburn.
- Chocolate - Many people love chocolate, but eating too much of this tasty treat can cause or increase heartburn.
- Alcohol - Alcohol can be a common problem for many issues. Too much alcohol is definitely capable of causing heartburn.
- Coffee - As coffee drinkers know, heartburn is sometimes waiting for them after they drink their morning cup.
- Carbonated Drinks - Carbonated beverages can cause the stomach to become unsettled and acid to rise and cause heartburn.
- Large Meals - Quite simply, eating any kind of meal in excess of normal amounts can lead to heartburn. The stomach fills up, pushing the acid closer to the esophageal sphincter.
In most cases, people can handle their heartburn with simple over the counter medications. These medications work to either neutralize the acidic components in the stomach with a corresponding basic substance. Alternatively some medications work to simply reduce the amount of stomach acid that the body is producing.
The other main way to reduce and treat heartburn is by making good lifestyle choices. Healthy weight levels can make a difference and reduce pressure on the stomach. It’s important to avoid eating before sleeping so that the food has time to get through the stomach before laying down. Tight clothing can also put some extra stress on the stomach and encourage heartburn, so it should be avoided. Smaller meals at regular intervals can be a smarter decision than eating one large one.