In case you are often bowled down with a sudden burning sensation in your upper abdomen, just behind the breastbone, don’t think of the pain as just another ache and wade it off. It could be something as serious as heartburn as well and need immediate medical intervention. The name heartburn is quite a misnomer, since it has nothing to do with the heart. Heartburn is actually a digestive problem that occurs when stomach acid comes into direct contact with the lining of the esophagus, causing irritation. The pain might travel from your diaphragm, all the way to your throat, giving you a tacit-sour taste and a feeling of food re-entering your mouth. Occasional heartburn isn't a thing to fret about, but if the condition turns out to be a daily affair, in no time it can develop into something serious like gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD). To avoid the condition, it is best advised to get acquainted with the causes of heartburn. Once you are sure of what has lead to the condition, chances are that you would be able to avert it. Browse through our section given below and learn what causes heartburn.
What Causes Heartburn
Heartburn occurs when your stomach acid bounces back into your esophagus. In a normal digestive process, when we swallow the food, our lower esophageal sphincter or LES (a circular band of muscle around the bottom part of the esophagus) relaxes to allow the ingested food to pass into our stomach. Once this step is over, the LES shuts again. Once it has closed again, the stomach releases acids and enzymes to break down the food. However, if our LES tends to relax abnormally or weakens (in case of gastro esophageal reflux disease/GERD), the stomach acid can bounce back into our esophagus, causing an uneasy burning sensation or heartburn. The condition worsens when a person is in a bent position or lying down. One should keep in mind that heartburn is simply a symptom of another digestive disorder, and not a disorder in itself. For instance, heartburn is one of the most common symptoms of GERD. Acid reflux is another medical condition, with heartburn as a possible symptom. Heartburn can trigger in a variety of ways in people, but most of them have similar symptoms. There are certain food items and beverages that result in heartburn. Read through the list given below and get acquainted with the food that causes heartburn.
Fried & Fatty Foods
These categories of foods generally tend to slow down the digestive mechanism of your body, as the food is stored in your stomach for a comparatively longer duration. This, in turn, increases pressure on your stomach wall, consequently putting more pressure on an already weakened LES, hence allowing the stomach contents to bounce back or reflux.
Drinks Containing Caffeine
Caffeine has a tendency to relax the LES. Thus, intake of beverages like tea and coffee containing considerable amount of caffeine allows the stomach contents to shoot back into the esophagus, thus causing heartburn.
Even a seemingly harmless bar of your favorite chocolate contains concentrations of theobromine (a compound that occurs naturally in many plants such as cocoa, tea and coffee plants), which relaxes the LES, letting stomach acid to squirt up into the esophagus.
How many times have we been reminded to take small, frequent meals instead of loading up the stomach to the brim? A full stomach puts extra pressure on the LES. As a result, chances are that some of this food might reflux into your esophagus causing uneasiness.
While one cannot deny the health benefits of oranges, lemons and grapefruit, these citrus fruits, being highly acidic in nature, can further lower the pH level of an already low pH stomach acids. Consumption of tomatoes is also not advisable for heartburn sufferers. Being acidic, it lowers the pH level of stomach contents, thereby instigating a burning sensation in the esophagus.
Consumption of Alcohol/Tobacco
Alcohol, besides relaxing the LES, increases the production of stomach acids, which, in turn, increases the possibility of heartburn. Even tobacco containing products like cigarettes can prove disastrous for heartburn sufferers. Tobacco impairs the functioning of LES, increases acid production and reduces saliva production, which aids in the digestive process, thereby causing heartburn.
Hiatus hernia is a condition in which a portion of the stomach pushes up abnormally through an opening in the diaphragm, a sheet of muscle that separates the chest from the abdomen. Heartburn and indigestion is a typical symptom of this disease.
Since excessive pressure on the abdomen can in turn put further pressure on the LES, allowing stomach acid to enter the esophagus, or even the mouth at times, pregnant women and overweight people are especially prone to heartburn problems.
Wearing Tight Fitted Clothes
Tight fitted clothes usually squeeze the stomach, causing stomach contents to reflux into the esophagus. Hence, tight-fitting belts and slenderizing undergarments should be avoided to prevent heartburn.
Apart from those mentioned above, there are several other factors that contribute to heartburn. Some people have an abnormal muscle or nerve function in the stomach that affects the ability of the stomach muscles to contract in a normal fashion. This results in the possibility of food being stored up in the stomach for a long duration, thereby increasing the chances of it seeping back into the esophagus. Few other medical conditions that may contribute to heartburn and consequently GERD include asthma and diabetes.