When it comes to heartburn, no one wants to “feel the burn!” Over 60 million people in the US alone report suffering from heartburn at least once a month. Luckily, there are a number of ways to manage this painful symptom of acid reflux, and one of the best ways to do so is to avoid anything that might trigger it in the first place. If you’re suffering from heartburn on a regular basis, staying aware of these possible triggers and avoiding them where possible will help to alleviate your symptoms.
There are a number of foods that can cause heartburn and how it affects a person seems to vary on an individual level. However, there are a few foods that are commonly known to cause this inconvenient issue and should be cut down on where possible.
High-fat foods such as fried foods and even healthy options like nuts and cheese are prime heartburn culprits. Studies have shown that these can cause the lower esophageal sphincter to relax which causes acid to travel up the stomach into the esophagus leading to heartburn. Foods high in fat also stimulate the release of cholecystokinin – a hormone that can also cause the esophagus sphincter to relax.
Citrus juices have been shown to trigger the symptoms of heartburn. In one specific study of heartburn patients, 67% of 382 participants experienced symptoms after drinking orange juice. Another study of around 400 people suffering from heartburn showed that symptoms were triggered in 73% of participants after orange or grapefruit juice consumption. These studies strongly suggest that the level of acid in citrus juice may trigger the burning sensation of heartburn.
This is the last thing anyone wants to hear, but if you have heartburn you should probably cut down on chocolate. Unfortunately this decadent snack is detrimental to your gut if you suffer from acid reflux as it can cause your lower exposontal sphincter (LES) muscle to relax, allowing acid to escape. The “feel good” hormone found in cocoa can also relax your LES… so it’s best to eat it in moderation or you won’t be feeling too good afterwards!
If you suffer from heartburn and you’re prone to a curry now and then, you probably already know about the effect it can have on your symptoms! Spicy foods can sit longer in your stomach which makes heartburn more likely and chilli powder specifically has been shown to slow down the rate that your body digests food. Another obvious issue with spicy food is that it’s not exactly soothing! Spicy food can easily irritate an esophagus that’s already inflamed, and this will make existing heartburn symptoms even worse.
You don’t need to quit cold turkey, but if you suffer from heartburn it’s wise to avoid drinking alcohol regularly and excessively. As with many of the other heartburn triggers, alcohol can cause your LES to relax leading to an acid overflow. Research has found that beer and wine in particular can increase the amount of acid in your stomach and this can also increase your probability of heartburn. In addition to this, a long term excessive intake of alcohol can damage your esophageal lining and make it even more sensitive to damage from stomach acid.
Carbonated drinks are extremely common causes of heartburn and they do so by relaxing the LES and also increasing the acidity of acid in your stomach. One study that observed the sleeping patterns of 15,000 heartburn sufferers, found that 25% experienced heartburn at night. Further research discovered that drinking carbonated soda was one of several factors linked to nocturnal heartburn.
If you find these foods triggering your heartburn, you should at least cut back, if not cut them out completely.