Common Causes of Heartburn

Overeating: Too much food can cause pressure changes in your stomach which push the stomach contents back up into the lower part of the esophagus. Even a moderate amount of food eaten late at night or after exercising may be interpreted by your body as “too much.” Being overweight, pregnant, or wearing too-tight garments can also cause heartburn by exerting pressure upward on the stomach.

Eating too fast:  Chomping down on burgers or tacos in the car in traffic while rushing to your job? Insufficient chewing creates large pieces of food difficult for digestive enzymes to handle. This can cause heartburn.

Drinking too many caffeinated beverages, such as coffee, tea, or colas.  Chocolate abuse may also cause heartburn because it contains caffeine and theobromine, another caffeinated substance.

Overeating refined carbohydrates, such as sugars, breads and pastas, especially accompanied by a low-nutrient-fiber diet.  Drinking two or more beers or glasses of wine at night may be causing your heartburn.

Smoking:  can cause heartburn.  This effect is exaggerated by smoking before or during a meal.

Stomach Acid:  too much or too little can cause heartburn. 

Severe emotional stress can promote increased stomach acid secretion. Sometimes health problems related to stress, such as heartburn, may show up any time within two years of the stressful event.

Making insufficient levels of stomach acid can also cause heartburn. Insufficient stomach acid creates indigestion and gas in the stomach. This causes the contents of the stomach to reflux into the lower portion of the

esophagus, which irritates the cells that line the esophagus.  Irritated cells create the burning sensation associated with heartburn.

Gastroesophageal Reflux

You have a sphincter valve between your esophagus and stomach that is supposed to prevent your stomach contents from backing up into the more delicate lining of the esophagus.  When this happens it is called gastroesophageal reflux., which causes heartburn.

Other factors can also cause reflux: excessive consumption of acidic foods, such as tomato-based foods; a poor functioning valve; hiatal hernia, pregnancy; ulcers; disease or irritation of the esophagus; loss of intestinal lining protective factors may be secondary to low stomach acid: inadequate nutrients, such as folic acid, iodine, zinc, B6 and vitamin A.

Recommended Treatments

Don’t eat late at night.

Try eating fewer tomatoes and citrus fruits, and consuming less alcohol.

Don’t drink late at night.

Don’t overconsume fluids with meals.

Don’t smoke.

Eat less refined sugars, such as chocolates.

Specific Foods That Aggravate Heartburn or Gastroesophageal Reflux

Coffee • Citrus

Tea • Fatty foods

Cola • Chocolate

Peppermint, Spearmint • Onions

Tomatoes • Peppers

These foods are known to cause pressure changes in the stomach of sensitive people that can cause reflux and heartburn.

Cut out these foods for a month.  Reintroduce one food a day and see how you feel. Add them back sparingly into your diet if they do not cause an immediate problem. Avoid them completely if they do.

Other Causes of Heartburn

  • Drugs:  some can cause heartburn such as hormone replacement,
  • NSAIDS, osteoporosis medications
  • Too much magnesium:  can cause heartburn in some people.
  • Food allergies:  Food allergies stimulate histamine release, which stimulates stomach acid secretion.  Most common offenders are cow’s milk products, gluten grains(wheat, oats, rye, barley, spelt, kamut), eggs, corn, beef, soy and some citrus fruits.
  • Infection:  H.Pylori.  Get a stool antigen or breath test.
  • Swallowing air during meals.
  • Beware of candy bars and sugar as they promote high levels of stomach acid.
  • Remedies for Acute Heartburn
  • Drink a glass of water with 2 tablespoons of liquid aloe vera.
  • Chew papaya enzymes every 15 minutes for one to two hours.
  • Take 1 or two deglycyrrhizinated licorice tables, chewed and swallowed on an empty stomach 20 minutes before meals.
  • Try slippery elm bark, ginger, or meadowsweet tea.
  • Try enterically coated peppermint and take before meals.
  • Mix apple cider vinegar (¼ tsp.) in a small amount of water and drink before meals to increase hydrochloric acid. Also, may take Swedish bitters before meals or an HCL tablet.

Dietary Program for Chronic Heartburn

Try several of the following to see if they reduce heartburn symptoms:

  • Rule out infection with H.Pylori.
  • Evaluate your eating habits and make appropriate changes.
  • Identify food allergies.
  • Do not drink ice-cold liquids or more than half a glass of liquid with meals.
  • Eat more fresh vegetables, whole grains, beans, organic lean turkey, chicken and fish.
  • Eliminate refined sugar, refined carbohydrates, colas, caffeine, and alcoholic drinks.
  • Avoid chocolate, citrus, tomatoes, onions, peppers, and foods containing peppermint and caffeine.
  • Add cultured products or supplements to your diet.
  • Lose weight if necessary.
  • Avoid the chronic use of antacids. 

In the long run, they can make the problem worse. They neutralize stomach acid.  This interferes with protein absorption and may alter pressure and valve action, creating reflux.