What Is Causing Your Heartburn?

May 7th 2016

People with chronic heartburn should consult their primary care physician. Doctors can prescribe drugs for people with severe cases if they believe the patient should take that course of action. Several over-the-counter medications help alleviate stomach acid buildup.

Foods That Relax the Sphincter

Certain foods relax the lower esophageal sphincter, the muscular enclosure that connects the esophagus to the stomach. These foods include tomatoes, citrus fruits, garlic and onions. Less healthy foods such as chocolate, coffee, alcohol, caffeinated products and peppermint may also cause heartburn in this manner. Avoid eating these foods regularly to try to reduce instances of heartburn.

Too Much Food

Consuming too much food represents the most common cause of heartburn. A stomach full of food stretches the organ, which puts pressure on the lower esophageal sphincter. If this stomach pressure, called distension, becomes too great, the muscle may loosen and allow stomach acid into the esophagus. Reduce the size of your meals to help keep heartburn at bay. Stop eating two hours before bedtime because lying down makes digestion more difficult.

Fatty Meals

Fatty and oily foods, no matter if the source comes from meat or plants, sit in your stomach longer because they take more effort to digest. This may cause acid buildup, which may drift into the esophagus. Lower-fat foods pass through the stomach more quickly, so monitor your intake of fat as you eat. Combine this with smaller meals to reduce your chances of heartburn even further. Try to eat five or six smaller, low-fat meals per day.


Smoking relaxes the sphincter and stimulates stomach acid. Both of these factors combine to cause heartburn in the upper part of the stomach and lower part of the esophagus. Eliminate smoking altogether to get rid of another risk factor for this problem.


Certain drugs and medications may cause acid buildup or muscle relaxation in the area of the lower esophageal sphincter. Aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen may irritate the stomach and lead to heartburn. Make sure to follow the directions on the package of these medications. Some labels on prescription medications say to take the medicine with food to ease digestion.

Weight Gain

Obesity and pregnancy put pressure on the stomach and the lower esophageal sphincter. This occurs because the abdominal cavity fills up with other tissue and the sphincter relaxes and may not work as effectively.


Heartburn, a symptom of gastroesophageal reflux disease, causes inflammation in the esophagus. This occurs when stomach acid backs up into the lower part of the esophagus and damages unprotected cells. Several factors may cause excess acid to rise into the esophagus, despite a muscular sphincter that holds the junction closed.

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