First of all, heartburn has nothing to do with the heart. At the bottom of your esophagus there is a circular band of muscles, known as the lower esophageal sphincter, which acts as a valve to the stomach. The lower esophageal sphincter muscle (LES) allows food to enter the stomach and prevents stomach acids from coming back up into the esophagus. In some people the LES muscle doesn’t open and close properly. When stomach acid refluxes back into the esophagus it can cause a burning sensation in the chest. Since the esophagus doesn’t have the same protective lining as the stomach, the acid can irritate sensitive tissues, which causes the pain known as heartburn.
What foods can cause heartburn?
Although the actual cause of heartburn is physical, certain types of food tend to trigger heartburn. For example, chocolate contains compounds that could relax the LES muscle and allow acid to enter the esophagus.
Other foods, like spicy food and tomato base foods, directly irritate the esophagus. Some of the foods that can trigger heartburn are shown to the right.
What behaviors can trigger heartburn for some people?
There are certain behaviors that can cause heartburn. Making a few minor adjustments in your eating habits could help. Here are four habits that could put pressure on your stomach that you should try to avoid if you want to reduce your chances of triggering heartburn:
- Eating too fast
- Eating a large meal
- Lying down after a meal
- Exercising after eating
What physical changes can trigger heartburn?
Your own body can act as a trigger and cause the pain of heartburn. It can be anything from pregnancy, anxiety or weak esophageal muscle.