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What Causes Heartburn?

What Causes Heartburn?

If you’re suffering from heartburn, the #1 thing on your mind right now might be what causes heartburn? Finding out exactly what’s triggering your heartburn is key to preventing it from happening again in the future.

Heartburn is a common digestive condition in both adults and children. It’s also known as GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), and it’s so common that this week alone, 1 in 3 people have experienced symptoms of the condition.

Heartburn occurs when stomach acid rises into the esophagus from the stomach. Typically, stomach acid is contained within the stomach by a sphincter, but with GERD, the sphincter becomes weak, and the acid can then leak back up into the esophagus.

But what actually causes acid to backflow into the esophagus in the first place? Keep reading to learn everything you should know about what causes heartburn.

What Are the Symptoms of Heartburn?

The symptoms of heartburn can vary from person to person. Most commonly, people will complain of a burning sensation in the center of their chest that may travel into the throat. Other symptoms of heartburn can include:

  • Burping
  • Nausea
  • Regurgitation of food
  • Sour taste in the mouth
  • Cough
  • Sore throat or hoarse voice
  • Trouble swallowing or pain with swallowing
  • Vomiting

Common Causes of Heartburn

People experience heartburn in many different ways. What may be bothersome to one person may not be to the other. Identifying triggers is the first step to avoiding your symptoms of heartburn. Here are some of the most common causes of heartburn.

Triggering Foods: Many people find that certain foods, such as spicy foods, tomatoes, citrus fruits, caffeinated beverages, alcohol, or chocolate, can worsen their heartburn symptoms. To help identify and avoid triggering foods, keep a food diary of the foods you have eaten that cause heartburn and then try to avoid those foods in the future.

Eating Large Meals: Instead of 3 large meals daily, try to eat smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day. Eating large meals causes the stomach to expand and stretch, which can pressure the sphincter muscle, separating the stomach and esophagus and leading to worsening heartburn symptoms.

Laying Down After Meals: Laying down too quickly after a meal puts pressure on the sphincter muscle that separates the stomach from the esophagus, which causes heartburn. If you struggle with heartburn, avoid lying down too quickly after eating. Sitting up for at least 30 minutes after a meal is recommended to allow your stomach time to empty.

Smoking: Smoking cigarettes isn’t good for your overall health, but when it comes to heartburn, smoking can cause the sphincter muscle between the esophagus and stomach to become weak. This causes stomach acid to backflow into the esophagus, leading to the many different symptoms of heartburn.

Tight-Fitting Clothing: Tight clothing, such as pants with tight elastic waistbands or shapewear, can pressure the abdomen, worsening the backflow of stomach acid into the esophagus. If you experience heartburn often, consider wearing loose-fitting clothing to prevent unnecessary pressure on your abdomen.

Pregnancy: Pregnancy causes hormonal changes that can relax the sphincter muscle between the stomach and esophagus, allowing stomach acid to backflow into the esophagus. Then, as the uterus expands and puts further pressure on the stomach, symptoms can become even worse.

Obesity: Carrying excess weight, especially around the abdomen, increases abdominal pressure and can worsen heartburn.

Getting Help for Your Heartburn

Although it can be completely normal to occasionally experience heartburn, if you are experiencing bothersome or persistent heartburn, your symptoms could be related to something more serious. If you have concerns about your heartburn and want to get to the bottom of it, schedule an appointment today to get the help and relief you need.

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