Do you occasionally get heartburn and you’re not sure why? Although the food you eat may be to blame, there could be other things causing your upset stomach or heartburn. To get to the bottom of the causes of heartburn, you need to identify your triggers. Let’s discuss some common heartburn causes, so you can consider your next steps.
What is Heartburn?
Heartburn is a sensation of burning in your chest or throat. It occurs when stomach acid backs up into your esophagus, making digestion difficult and uncomfortable. Over-the-counter medications may help ease heartburn discomfort, but it’s a good idea to discuss your heartburn with your doctor too.1
On that note, let’s look at…
Seven Common Heartburn Causes and Triggers
1. Dietary Habits
Your eating habits are incredibly important when it comes to causes of heartburn. This includes what you are eating, how often you are eating, and how much you’re eating. Some foods that are linked with acid reflux include:
- Tomatoes and tomato products
- High-fat foods
- Onions, garlic, leeks, and shallots
- Spicy foods
- Citrus fruit (and fruit juices)
- Carbonated drinks
Be sure to avoid these foods and drinks if they trigger your heartburn symptoms and digestion problems. Also, remember that every person is different. What triggers heartburn in one person may not cause issues for another. If you’re not sure what’s causing your issues, an exclusion diet — where you eliminate certain foods/beverages and monitor the results — may help you narrow down your trigger foods.3
2. Body Position
Believe it or not, your body position after you eat, or shortly after, is one of the most common heartburn causes. Lying down, or leaning forward, especially after you’ve eaten a big meal, can lead to acid reflux. Research even suggests that lying on your right side might worsen and lengthen the symptoms of this condition.4
Try going for a light walk after a meal or, at the very least, stay in an upright sitting position for a while, to give your body time to digest your food.
3. Tight Clothing
Sure, wearing too-tight clothing is uncomfortable, but did you know it might also contribute to heartburn?5 Wearing clothing that is too tight, especially around your abdomen, is one of the causes of heartburn. So, avoid tight clothing, especially if you already have heartburn symptoms.
Heartburn is much more common during pregnancy. It’s believed to affect anywhere from 17 to 45 percent of pregnant women.6 If you think you are experiencing heartburn due to pregnancy, be sure to speak with your doctor.
Not only can certain medications trigger heartburn, but they can also exacerbate already existing acid reflux.7 So, this is something to discuss with your doctor if/when you get a new prescription.
6. Other Lifestyle Choices
Drinking alcohol and smoking are also linked to heartburn symptoms. Even small amounts of alcohol may trigger digestive upset.8 This is another one of the easily avoidable causes of heartburn. Obviously, you shouldn’t smoke anyway, but if you need another reason to quit, doing so may help ease heartburn.
7. Problems with Esophagus or Stomach
It’s not as common as the above causes of heartburn, but if you have frequent heartburn issues, you might have a problem with your esophagus or stomach. This is just one of the many reasons you should always discuss your heartburn with your doctor.9
While many heartburn causes can be avoided, be sure to talk with your doctor about any acid reflux you experience. If it worsens, this information could help your doctor to determine if this might be a chronic issue.
Better Eating Habits for Better Digestion
One clear answer to help with potential heartburn causes: Avoid foods that lead to acid reflux. Exclusion diets can help you to narrow down exactly which foods might be causing your acid reflux. Also, remember that there are certain behaviors that may help ease your discomfort, like staying upright for a bit after eating.
Most importantly, make sure you discuss your heartburn symptoms with your doctor, even if they’re infrequent. Your doctor can help you address the potential triggers of heartburn so you’ll feel better, faster.
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