What Can Trigger Heartburn
Heartburn can be triggered by many different things that are a part of your daily life. For many people, heartburn can be caused by certain eating and lifestyle habits. These habits can involve things like eating large portions of food, eating too close to bedtime or even having high stress levels.
Certain foods and drinks can also trigger heartburn for some people. Some foods and drinks that could trigger your heartburn can include:
- Caffeinated beverages.
- Carbonated beverages.
Your lifestyle habits can also play a part in why you might experience heartburn. These everyday factors often contribute to medical conditions that cause heartburn, like GERD or hiatal hernia. Some lifestyle habits that can trigger your heartburn include:
- Being overweight.
- Having a high stress level.
- Wearing tight clothes and belts.
What Are The Main Symptoms Of Gerd
The main symptoms are persistent heartburn and acid regurgitation. Some people have GERD without heartburn. Instead, they experience pain in the chest, hoarseness in the morning or trouble swallowing. You may feel like you have food stuck in your throat, or like you are choking or your throat is tight. GERD can also cause a dry cough and bad breath.
Other non-medicinal methods which people have tried include:
- Acupuncture: Though the research regarding acupuncture and pregnant women is very limited a small trial published in the journal Acupuncture in Medicine in 2009 discovered that adding acupuncture to a treatment plan of antacids and dietary adjustments made the plan more effective in relieving pregnant womens heartburn symptoms.
- Drink fluids between meals rather than with meals: Adding fluid to a regular meal increases the number of contents in your stomach. Instead, some women have found it more comfortable to slowly drink fluids between meals.
What Makes Your Heartburn Worsen Over Time
There are four common reasons for increased heartburn.
Your muscles weaken as you grow older. And that includes one critical to fending off heartburn the lower esophageal sphincter.
Food passes down your throat and through your esophagus to your stomach. This sphincter controls the opening between the esophagus and the stomach. It typically remains tightly closed except when you swallow food. But as you age, it can weaken and stop functioning properly.
Many older adults carry extra weight that can weaken the sphincter further. And, for reasons that arent entirely clear, the risk and severity of GERD is higher for those who are overweight, Dr. Gabbard says.
As you age, your health problems increase and so does your need for medication.
Some blood pressure and antidepressant medications can cause heartburn. Also opiates, says Dr. Gabbard. Being overweight and taking certain medications may be the major driving factors for heartburn.
With age often comes a hiatal hernia, where the upper part of the stomach pushes up into the chest cavity.
Sixty percent of people over 60 have a hiatal hernia, Dr. Gabbard says. Most are small and do not cause problems, but the larger ones put you at risk for heartburn.
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Big Meals And Eating Certain Foods
The occasional episode of acid reflux may also just be the result of a little more acid production than usual perhaps brought on by a particularly large meal or your sensitivity to certain foods.
And if you lie down before all your food is digested, you run the risk of having some of that excess acid leak through the sphincter.
Regardless of the cause of your acid reflux, lying down whether its at night or during the day is bound to worsen symptoms and prolong the time it will take your body to digest your food completely.
Take A Proactive Approach
That’s why, if you have had heartburn or acid reflux consistently for longer than three years, you should have an endoscopy, says Brown. An endoscopy is a simple procedure where a specially designed scope is used to examine the esophagus and take tissue samples, when necessary.
“The tissue samples or biopsies are examined to look for any abnormal cell growth,” Brown explains. “The hope is that we’ll be able to catch any abnormal cells before they become cancerous.
Patients who are diagnosed with Barrett’s typically undergo repeat endoscopies one year and three years later. If precancerous cells are seen at that point, treatment may involve surgical removal of the esophagus to prevent eventual progression to cancer.
But a technique available at Rush, the HALO Ablation System, enables doctors to use radiofrequency ablation to remove Barrett’s tissue completely, without invasive surgery and with relatively few complications.
“HALO ablation has shown to be an effective alternative to surgery in select patients,” says Brown. “However, the good news is that most patients with Barrett’s will never progress to the point that they require this level of intervention.”
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What Are The Treatment Options
If you have heartburn, your provider may prescribe over-the-counter antacids, which may come in a chewable tablet. They might also recommend prescription drugs such as H2 blockers or proton pump inhibitors, which reduce how much acid your stomach makes.
Providers may also recommend lifestyle changes, like losing weight and quitting smoking, which can increase stomach acid production. Other changes often include reducing stress, exercising more, avoiding food around bedtime, raising the head of the bed about 6 inches, and eating more high-protein, low-fat meals.
Is Anxiety Heartburn Dangerous
Heartburn, in general, is not dangerous per se. However, there are some risks. For example, both stress and heartburn can lead to ulcers, and ulcers can be dangerous. GERD has a very low chance of causing long term disease. The problem is not just the danger, however. The problem is that the symptoms of heartburn often lead to further anxiety.
This is especially problematic if you have panic attacks. Some of the symptoms of heartburn include:
- Stomach discomfort.
- Difficulty swallowing.
- Chronic cough.
The first three symptoms are known to be triggers for panic attacks. The last symptom can cause hyperventilation if the coughs are too frequent or too hard, and hyperventilation can lead to panic attacks.
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What’s Normal With Heartburn
“Heartburn should never be considered normal,” says Galier. Food is often the culprit. People with heartburn typically may be sensitive to foods such as chocolate, carbonated beverages, peppermint, coffee, citrus foods, fried and fatty foods, and spicy foods.
Having heartburn more than occasionally can reduce your quality of life. It can affect not just what you eat, but how you sleep and what activities you do.
And if heartburn from acid reflux persists and you don’t get treatment, complications can occur. They include damaging inflammation of the esophagus that affects the lining and causes bleeding. Another potential complication is Barrett’s esophagus. With Barrett’s esophagus the cells that line the esophagus become abnormal. That, in turn, boosts the risk of esophageal cancer.
Can Alkaline Water Give You Heartburn
An interesting study by Kaufman & Johnston investigated that potential benefits of pH 8.8 alkaline drinking water as an adjunct in the treatment of reflux disease. They set out to test whether consuming water with a pH level of 8.8 could inactivate human pepsin more effectively than conventional-pH water such as those straight from the tap or bottled varieties .
The study found that pH 8.8 alkaline water irreversibly inactivated human pepsin and its hydrochloric acid-buffering capacity far exceeded that of those conventional forms of drinking water.
The University of Maryland has also suggested that drinking filtered water throughout the day can help prevent heartburn.
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Mix Baking Soda With Water
You might have a heartburn remedy at hand in your kitchen without even knowing it. Baking soda can calm some episodes of heartburn by neutralizing your stomach acid.
To do this, dissolve a teaspoon of baking soda in a glass of water and drink it slowly. In fact, you should drink everything slowly when you have heartburn.
help relieve nausea, so some believe it may be worth trying for heartburn, too.
Consider adding grated or diced ginger root to your favorite stir-fry recipes, soups, and other foods. To make ginger tea, steep raw ginger root, dried ginger root, or ginger tea bags in boiling water.
Its probably best to avoid ginger ale, though. Carbonated beverages are a common heartburn trigger, and most brands of ginger ale are made with artificial flavoring rather than the real thing.
What Can You Do About Your Heartburn
A good rule of thumb is to seek medical attention if you have more than two episodes of heartburn a week especially if you notice difficulty swallowing, weight loss or anemia, Dr. Gabbard says.
Your doctor may help you lose weight or adjust your medications.
A change in blood pressure medicine may help reduce your heartburn symptoms, for instance. Or your doctor may suggest a proton pump inhibitor such as Prilosec OTC® or Nexium® to help control your GERD.
If your heartburn is worse at night, changing your sleeping position may help. Dr. Gabbard recommends using a body pillow or sleep-positioning device that helps keep you on your left side with your head elevated.
Finally, he has a warning for men over 50 who have chronic heartburn.
If at least two of these conditions apply you are Caucasian, have abdominal obesity, are a former or current smoker you may have a higher risk for Barretts esophagus, a precancerous condition that can lead to esophageal cancer.
Even if you are feeling fine, you should see your doctor. He or she may recommend a one-time scope examination to make sure there are no signs of the condition.
There is no pill to strengthen and restore your sphincter muscle to its younger days. But you can work with your doctor to reduce that burning sensation as you age.
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Don’t Drink Too Much Alcohol
Alcohol increases the amount of acid the stomach produces. It also relaxes the LES. If you drink, try these tips:
- Dilute the alcohol with water or club soda.
- Limit consumption. Have one or two mixed drinks, no more than 16 ounces of wine, or no more than three beers.
- Drink white wine instead of red wine.
- Choose non-alcoholic beer or wine.
- Keep track of which alcoholic drinks trigger your heartburn. Avoid these drinks as much as you can.
What Are The Signs & Symptoms Of Gerd
Often, people who have GERD notice that they regularly have the pain of heartburn in the chest or stomach. This can last up to a couple of hours. Many notice their heartburn is worse after eating.
Regurgitation when food and liquid containing stomach acid comes back up into the throat or mouth is also a sign of GERD. But, like heartburn, occasional regurgitation is common for everyone.
Other symptoms of GERD include:
- a sore, raw throat or hoarse voice
- a frequent sour taste of acid, especially when lying down
- a feeling of burping acid into the mouth
- trouble swallowing
- bad breath
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You Need To Rethink Your Pre
Spicy foods, tomato-based dishes, snacks or meals higher in fat and fiber and carbonated beverages can all relax the lower esophageal sphincter and trigger reflux, Dr. Knotts says.
That’s because spicy foods have a compound called capsaicin, which can delay gastric emptying and increase pressure in the lower esophageal sphincter, according to a July 2017 study in the Journal of Neurogastroenterology and Motility.
Moreover, fatty and fried foods, like french fries and cheeseburgers, sit in the stomach longer and increase abdominal pressure, so stomach acid can leak into the esophagus, per Harvard Health Publishing. You’ll likely want to avoid all of these too close to exercise.
Many people may have a cup of coffee beforehand to get a boost from caffeine, but Dr. Iqbal says the caffeine and acidity content in coffee can sometimes also cause heartburn.
In fact, a November 2019 study in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, which included more than 7,000 women, found those who drank more caffeinated beverages like coffee, tea and soda reported symptoms of GER more than once a week compared to those who drank water, juice or milk. Keep in mind some pre-workout drinks also contain caffeine.
Drinking a protein shake right before you exercise can also cause heartburn, Dr. Knotts says.
Eating Too Close To Bedtime Causes Heartburn
Eating within 2 to 3 hours of lying down is a problem, Brown says.
Your body can only do so much to fight gravity. And if youre hitting the sack on a full stomach, youre helping the contents of your belly slide up into your esophagus, he says.
Especially for people diagnosed with GERD, eating before lying down is a no-no, shows research from Japan. Even sitting back or reclining too soon after a meal could trigger heartburn, Dardarian says.
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What Foods And Drinks Cause Heartburn
- Alcohol: Alcohol can relax the lower esophageal sphincter.
- Coffee and orange or other acidic juices are some of the beverages that can worse or trigger heartburn.
- Fatty foods, fried foods, and some acidic foods as well as spicy foods can cause heartburn.
- Additional foods that make heartburn worse.
Every person reacts somewhat differently to specific food groups. To track what foods worsen your symptoms, keep a food journal. In this journal, you should keep track of what you eat, the time you ate, any activity that worsened or made the heartburn better, and indicate which days you have heartburn symptoms. Over time, you will be able to correlate the offending foods with heartburn events. Print this and take this with you to your next doctor’s appointment to discuss possible causes of heartburn you may be experiencing.
Pregnancy tends to aggravate heartburn because the lower esophageal sphincter is weakened during pregnancy. This weakened resolves after delivery of the baby. Pregnancy also distorts the organs in the abdomen and the increased abdominal pressure from the growing fetus causes heartburn. These changes promote the reflux of acid and heartburn.
Approximately 17% to 45% of women who become pregnant will suffer from heartburn.
Management of heartburn during pregnancy consists of many of the same home remedies and lifestyle changes for a person with heartburn who is not pregnant .
Talk To Your Doctor About Finding The Right Medication
Certain medications can help keep your reflux symptoms to a minimum and prevent you from waking up with heartburn in the morning. However, as with any medication, there can be side effects, so its always a good idea to talk with your doctor before using anything to treat your symptoms, especially if you already use other medications.
In general, there are three kinds of medicine that are used to cut down on heartburn and reflux:
- Antacids: These often come in the form of chewable tablets that neutralize the acid in your stomach, and are best suited for calming symptoms as needed.
- H-2 Blockers: This type of medication slows the production of stomach acid, providing relief over a longer period rather than immediate symptom reduction.
- Proton pump inhibitors: PPIs are also used to reduce the production of stomach acid.
If you deal with frequent heartburn and acid reflux, you may be suffering from GERD. Before starting any kind of medication, be sure to talk to your doctor to decide what course of action might be best for you. Because medications can come with troubling side effects, it is also worth it to consider less invasive forms of relieving symptoms often, they can even be more effective.
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When To Contact A Medical Professional
Get urgent medical care if:
- You vomit material that is bloody or looks like coffee grounds.
- You have heartburn often or it does not go away after a few weeks of self-care.
- You lose weight that you did not want to lose.
- You have trouble swallowing .
- You have a cough or wheezing that does not go away.
- Your symptoms get worse with antacids, H2 blockers, or other treatments.
- You think one of your medicines may be causing heartburn. DO NOT change or stop taking your medicine on your own.
What Causes Heartburn
A muscle called the lower esophageal sphincter at the bottom of the esophagus normally prevents foods and acid from backing up. This muscle acts like a tight drawstring to close off the opening between the esophagus and stomach when a person is not eating.
Heartburn occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter does not close all the way.
Why doesn’t the lower esophageal sphincterclose all the way?
Many different things loosen the lower esophageal sphincter.
- Certain foods and drinks loosen the lower esophageal sphincter. These include chocolate, peppermint, caffeine-containing beverages , fatty foods, and alcohol.
- The body’s position affects the lower esophageal sphincter. It is easier for stomach acid to flow back into the esophagus if a person is lying down or bending over.
- Anything that increases the pressure on the stomach can force stomach acid backward and cause heartburn. Lifting, straining, coughing, tight clothing, obesity, and pregnancy can worsen heartburn.
- Certain medical conditions increase a person’s chance of suffering from heartburn. A hiatal hernia, diabetes, and many autoimmune diseases are linked to heartburn.
- Many prescription medications can loosen the lower esophageal sphincter, including certain blood pressure and heart medications and the asthma drug theophylline.
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How Is Gerd Diagnosed
Tell your parents and visit your doctor if you’ve had heartburn that doesn’t seem to go away or any other symptoms of GERD for a while.
The doctor will do an exam and ask about your symptoms. If the doctor suspects GERD, you might go see a pediatric gastroenterologist. This is a doctor who treats kids and teens who have problems of the gastrointestinal system.
Doctors sometimes order these tests to diagnose GERD or rule out other possible problems: