Causes of Heartburn
Heartburn is a burning sensation in your chest that can have many different causes. It, in turn, can make you feel like you are having a heart attack because of where the pain is located. Nevertheless, once you have properly diagnosed the condition as heartburn, it is still a very painful problem that can make a person feel miserable.
Essentially, heartburn is caused because the sphincter that is located between your stomach and esophagus opens when it should not. This sphincter is called the lower esophageal sphincter, or LES. The LES is supposed to be a one-way passage for food to enter the stomach, but sometimes, food and stomach acid leak back up into the esophagus. The stomach acid in your esophagus, sometimes known as GERD, is what causes the burning sensation. There are a variety of factors that can cause this heartburn to occur.
The food you eat and the diet you follow may both contribute to heartburn. First, certain foods are more prone to causing excess stomach acids. There are numerous trigger foods, and different people are sensitive to each. Among common trigger foods are:
- Foods high in acid: citrus fruits, orange juice, tomato sauce
- Spicy foods
- Certain vegetables: onions, garlic, green pepper
- Fried foods: burgers, French fries, fried chicken
- Greasy and high fat foods: pizza, some cuts of beef or pork
- Caffeine: coffee, tea, chocolate
Many of these foods relax the sphincter muscle and allow for stomach acid to splash back into the esophagus. Some foods, particularly those high in fat, stay in your stomach longer than average, producing more stomach acids. You want to lower the amount of acid you produce and keep it out of your esophagus.
Another key cause of heartburn is having too much food in your stomach at any one time. Large meals, particularly before bedtime, can be detrimental. This feeling of fullness after a meal actually exerts pressure on the LES causing it to open and spill some of the stomach contents into the esophagus.
Another way to exert pressure on the stomach is when you become constipated. If it becomes bad enough, the intestines put pressure on the stomach. The added pressure can cause acid reflux and heartburn.
Many women experience heartburn during pregnancy. This happens more in the second and third trimesters when the uterus really starts to enlarge. The growing baby presses up against the stomach because it has nowhere else to go. Again, this causes the LES to be pushed open and leak stomach acids.
Even some exercises may cause heartburn. Any workouts that focus on the ab muscles may be to blame. Body movements that require you to bend at the waist can cause pressure on the stomach. So, if sit ups, crunches, and even leg lifts are causing you heartburn discomfort, these may be a part of your workout routine to avoid. Additionally, exercises or yoga moves that require you to be upside down, like handstands or downward dog, reverse the gravity on your body, allowing stomach acids to more easily flow into your esophagus. Finally, jarring exercises like jogging and aerobics may cause stomach contents to splash around and up into the esophagus. Choose your exercises carefully if you are bothered by heartburn.
There are a wide variety of medications that can effect heartburn and produce reflux into the esophagus. They do this mainly by relaxing the LES muscles. Some popular medications thatcan cause problems are:
- Aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen
- Blood pressure medicines that are calcium channel blockers
- Medications for Parkinson’s Disease
Make sure your doctor is aware of any medicines you are taking if you experience heartburn. One of them might be the issue.
No matter what is causing your heartburn, rest assured, that there are treatments that can help. Lifestyle changes, medications, and some alternative measures should make you feel better quickly.