Nearly 20 percent of our population experiences heartburn at least once every week. Symptoms are generally described as a painful tight or burning sensation through the chest.
Heartburn is actually caused by acid reflux – when stomach acid is released into the esophagus. Over time, stomach acid eats away at the lining of the esophagus and can cause lasting damage.
Doctors agree lifestyle is a major contributor to frequent heartburn – including obesity and smoking. By decreasing excess weight, quitting smoking and sleeping in an elevated position, many can decrease symptoms of acid reflux.
Types of food can also affect people in different ways. If you suffer from frequent heartburn, keep a diary of the foods you eat and when you notice heartburn symptoms. By identifying what foods may trigger symptoms, you can keep heartburn at bay by keeping those foods in moderation. Also, try eating smaller portions over the course of four to six meals a day, as overloading the stomach can lead to acid leaking into the esophagus.
We’re going to offer a list of top heartburn trigger foods, but before you read on – remember this: If heartburn is affecting your everyday life, visit your Primary Care Physician. He or she will have many options to best fit your health needs.
- ALCOHOL is a major trigger for heartburn because it relaxes the esophageal sphincter, allowing for stomach acid to creep up. Drinking alcohol with a large meal can be especially uncomfortable as it increases the risk for acid reflux.
- SPICY FOOD can affect acid levels in the stomach, creating the perfect (or not-so-perfect) environment to promote acid reflux.
- ORANGES and other citrus fruit are high in acid content, which can lead to acid reflux. If you notice yourself suffering from heartburn with citrus fruits; switch to berries, apples, bananas, pears or melon. You may notice a difference.
- COFFEE is very high in acid, and the caffeine relaxes the esophageal sphincter to allow stomach acid to creep in. If you love your Cup of Joe, the key is moderation. Just don’t allow yourself to drink it all day long.
- CHEESE may seem surprising, but it’s true! Since cheese is naturally high in fat, it relaxes your stomach and delays digestion. This, in turn, puts pressure on the esophageal sphincter and allows acid to creep through. Again, keep that diary. And remember, moderation is key.
- FRIED FOOD looks nice and crispy, but it retains so much oil in the coating. Foods high in fat take longer to digest, which puts pressure on both the esophagus and the stomach. The longer your stomach stays full, the more likely the chance for acid reflux.
- SODA is a problem due to the high acidity in most varieties as well as the carbon dioxide that creates the carbonation. The “bubbles” can force open the esophagus, allowing acid to creep up. If you find that the carbonation of sodas is bothersome to you, try allowing it to sit out for a bit to allow the carbonation to settle. Or, even better, opt for a tall, cool glass of water.
- CHOCOLATE is high in fat, which as mentioned before, means it takes a while to digest. It’s also high in caffeine, which like coffee, relaxes the esophageal sphincter … paving the way for stomach acid to creep in. For those who suffer from chronic heartburn, chocolate is probably going to be a trigger for symptoms.
- BEEF may be what’s for dinner, but for many – it’s what causes heartburn. Sadly, the most-loved cuts of beef are the ones that can cause the most problems. Expensive cuts such as filet mignon, porterhouse, New York strip and T-bone steaks are all high-fat cuts of beef. Those high-fat cuts take longer to digest, again paving the way for stomach acid to creep into the esophagus.
- CANDY is laced with sugar – a major contributor to acid reflux. Avoiding all foods with added sugar can be beneficial for those suffering from chronic heartburn. Natural sugars are generally fine, but be sure to listen to your body!
Again, these are just some of the top food triggers to acid reflux. Every person is different. Keep a food diary and avoid the foods that cause you difficulty. And remember, if heartburn is interfering with your life, see your doctor for the best advice.