Heartburn is something anyone can get, although some may suffer from it more often than others. You may not realize that what you’re eating and drinking may actually be the cause of your heartburn, and a simple change to your diet may eliminate this issue. If you suffer from heartburn, read on for some helpful tips.
It’s called heartburn because of where the pain is often felt, but it really has no connection to the heart. Also called acid reflux, heartburn is described as a burning discomfort in the chest area or upper abdomen. Caused by stomach acids that push up through the lower esophageal sphincter or LES (the valve between the stomach and esophagus), heartburn affects nearly one out of five adults and is a common complaint of pregnant women.
People who smoke, have stomach abnormalities, are obese, eat too much, or eat right before lying down are more prone to acid reflux, but there are also foods and drinks that relax the lower esophageal sphincter, triggering the unpleasant burning symptoms.
If you suffer from frequent heartburn, read on to find out which foods and drinks you should avoid as well as which foods are helpful for treating the condition.
Your favorite drinks may make the list of beverages to avoid in your quest to end heartburn: beer, wine, soda, coffee, tea, and citrus juices. Combining one of these drinks with a big meal or drinking them on an empty stomach sets you up for acid reflux.
Why these beverages? Alcohol relaxes and opens the LES, allowing acid to creep up the esophagus. Drinking multiple cups of caffeinated beverages like coffee, tea, and soda may lead to heartburn because caffeine also works to relax the LES. Carbonated beverages like soda make your stomach balloon up, putting extra pressure on the LES and increasing the likelihood of acid reflux. Citrus juice is already acidic, making the problem of heartburn worse.
As hard as it may be, you may need to say goodbye to chocolate if you’re prone to heartburn. Chocolate not only contains caffeine, which relaxes the LES, but the yummy stuff also works to open the valve allowing acid to back up. When you enjoy spicy foods like Mexican, hot sauce, pepper, and chilies don’t be surprised if you experience heartburn soon after. You may want to ask for mild seasonings or you may regret it later.
Like citrus fruits, tomatoes are highly acidic and are known to exacerbate acid reflux. Pair tomatoes with two other heartburn offenders—garlic and onion—and you’ve got a recipe for heartburn. Unfortunately, this may describe your favorite Italian dishes.
High-fat foods like nuts, cheese, steak, fried foods, and avocados may go down easy, but cause unpleasant side effects later. Fat slows the rate of digestion and therefore stays longer in your stomach. The more pressure in your stomach, the greater the pressure on the LES and the higher your chances of acid reflux.
And while peppermint has the reputation for soothing your stomach and freshening your breath, it’s actually a heartburn trigger for many people, so you may want to skip the gum or breath mint after a big meal.
Just as there are foods and drinks that worsen heartburn, there are those that help relieve the pain and discomfort. Before resorting to medication, you may want to try one of the best-known home remedies.
The first remedy involves saliva. The trick is to chew or suck on something that increases the amount of saliva your mouth produces. Swallowing saliva helps neutralize the stomach acid that’s backing up in your esophagus. Try sucking on sour candies or chewing gum (just not mint or peppermint-flavored).
Ginger root powder has also been known for centuries to relieve gastrointestinal discomfort. Sip on ginger tea or take a ginger supplement after a big meal as a preventative measure or when you feel the beginning stages of heartburn.
NOTE: If you experience heartburn more than twice a week even after changing your diet and lifestyle, you may have acid reflux disease. Other symptoms besides heartburn include abdominal pain, dry cough, chest pain, a sour taste in your mouth, and difficulty swallowing.