Heartburn affects more than 60 million Americans every month .
It is best described as a painful, burning sensation that occurs in the lower chest area.
Heartburn is a symptom of acid reflux, a condition where stomach acid escapes into the esophagus, the tube that delivers food and beverages to your stomach.
Normally, stomach acid cannot escape into the esophagus because of a barrier called the lower esophageal sphincter. This is a ring-like muscle that naturally stays closed, and normally only opens when you swallow or belch .
However, in people with acid reflux, this muscle is often weakened. This is one reason why people with acid reflux experience heartburn.
Diet plays an important role in heartburn. Many foods can relax the lower esophageal sphincter, which allows food to escape into the esophagus and cause heartburn.
Here are 11 foods that can cause heartburn.
1. High-Fat Foods
High-fat foods may cause heartburn. Unfortunately, this includes incredibly healthy and nutritious foods like avocados, cheese and nuts.
There are two ways that high-fat foods can trigger heartburn.
First, they may relax the lower esophageal sphincter, the muscle that acts as a barrier between the esophagus and the stomach. When this muscle relaxes, stomach acid can escape from the stomach into the esophagus and cause heartburn.
Second, high-fat foods stimulate the release of the hormone cholecystokinin (CCK). This hormone may also relax the lower esophageal sphincter and cause acid reflux.
In addition, CCK encourages food to stay in the stomach longer so it can be better digested. Sadly, this may also increase the risk of acid reflux, which can cause heartburn .
It’s important to note that this does not only apply to healthy foods that are rich in fats. It also applies to fried foods and takeout meals that are high in fat.
Mints like peppermint and spearmint are often thought to soothe digestive conditions. However, there is some evidence that these mints may cause heartburn.
One study found that high doses of spearmint were linked with acid reflux symptoms.
Surprisingly, spearmint did not relax the lower esophageal sphincter. Instead, researchers believe that spearmint may cause heartburn by irritating the lining of the esophagus.
Another study of more than 500 people found that those who consumed peppermint tea daily had twice the risk of heartburn .
That said, there is limited evidence of a link between mint and heartburn. If you feel that mintmakes your heartburn worse, then it’s best to avoid it.
3. Citrus Juices
Drinking citrus juices may trigger heartburn symptoms.
For example, in a study of 382 people with heartburn, 67% of participants experienced heartburn after consuming orange juice.
In another study of approximately 400 people with heartburn, 73% experienced heartburn after drinking orange or grapefruit juice. The findings suggested that the amount of acid in citrusjuices may have been responsible for causing heartburn symptoms.
However, it’s not entirely clear how citrus juices can cause heartburn.
Chocolate is another common trigger for heartburn.
Like high-fat foods, chocolate can relax the lower esophageal sphincter.
This may allow stomach acid to escape into the esophagus and cause heartburn.
In addition, chocolate is made of cocoa, which contains the “happy hormone” serotonin.
Unfortunately, serotonin may relax the lower esophageal sphincter, as well.
Lastly, chocolate also contains the compounds theobromine and caffeine. Both can stimulate the lower esophageal sphincter to relax.