Heartburn, also called acid reflux, occurs when stomach acid enters the esophagus and causes a burning sensation, bloating, belching, and discomfort. Normally, the esophageal sphincter manages food passing to the stomach and maintains a one-way ideal. But when the sphincter is relaxed, some food and acid can push its way back up, causing acid reflux.
Feeling heartburn every once in a while isn't abnormal, but for some, it's a regular occurrence that can have them feeling discomfort after almost every meal. It is estimated that 20% of the population suffers from chronic acid reflux, or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Luckily, making changes to your diet and avoiding certain trigger foods can help manage symptoms and keep the burning at bay.
High-fat foods, especially greasy foods such as fries or pizza, can cause increased heartburn. Researchers believe this is the case because high-fat foods stimulate your body to release various substances that can irritate the esophagus.
Just like fatty foods, foods that have been fried can trigger acid reflux because of how it prevents the esophageal sphincter from fully tightening and keeping the gastric acid in the stomach. Fried foods can also be more difficult for the body to digest, leaving a higher chance of heartburn.
Foods that are particularly hot and spicy are commonly known to cause serious heartburn. This is because of the capsaicin found in many spicy foods, which can slow the digestion process. Also, spicy foods can irritate the esophagus, leading to acid reflux.
Tomato sauces, such as marinara, ketchup, and more, are naturally acidic, leading to increased stomach acid levels, which can empty back past the esophageal sphincter.
Though many believe species of mint such as spearmint and peppermint can aid with digestion, there is evidence that it is the opposite for those who suffer from heartburn regularly.
Many people report having increased acid reflux discomfort after eating chocolate. This is likely due to the caffeine in cacao, which can increase the risk of esophageal exposure to gastric acid.
Onions, especially when raw, are a common trigger food for those with chronic heartburn, as they can stimulate gastric acid production.
The already acidic nature of some fruit juices can contribute to why juices are particularly triggering for those with chronic acid reflux. Two of the citrus beverages most commonly blamed are orange juice and grapefruit juice.
For some, coffee and other caffeinated drinks can cause the esophageal sphincter to relax, allowing more gastric acid to secrete and exacerbate heartburn.
Like caffeinated drinks, carbonated drinks, such as sodas, can also relax the esophageal sphincter, causing acid reflux. These bubbly beverages can also cause an increase in stomach acidity, leaving you even more likely to develop heartburn.
Moderate to excessive alcohol consumption can leave you more vulnerable to serious health problems, including an increased chance of severe acid reflux, especially for those with GERD.
For expert diagnosis, treatment, and management of digestive diseases, turn to Digestive Disease Care. Our team of passionate doctors at our six New York locations in Babylon, Lake Success, East Setauket, Mineola, Jericho, Forest Hills, and Jamaica are ready to work with you toward better digestive health.