Heartburn is not actually a condition of the heart, although the symptoms of severe heartburn often mimic those of heart diseases. Heartburn is actually an irritation in the esophagus and is caused by a buildup of stomach acid. Everyone has stomach acid. This acid is needed in order to properly digest food. When trace amounts of that acid travel up into the esophagus however, heartburn is experienced. When the acid rises into the esophagus, a burning sensation occurs caused by the inflammation of the esophageal tube. Heartburn experienced occasionally is not considered to be a serious condition. However, if you are experiencing heartburn daily then this could signal a more serious medical problem.
There are many causes of heartburn from foods to medical conditions. Determining just what is causing your heartburn can help you to control the disorder. Tests will likely be performed to see if you have an underlying medication condition that needs attention. For the average person however, heartburn is merely caused by lifestyle and a combination of certain foods that are consumed regularly.
Coffee, tea, soda and other drinks that contain caffeine are often the culprits of heartburn. Caffeine tends to relax the flap that shuts off the stomach from the esophagus, thus allowing stomach acids to travel back up into the esophageal tube and cause inflammation and burning.
Chocolate is also a common cause of heartburn because it contains higher concentrations of thoebromine. Theobromine is a compound that is found in coffee, tea and cocoa plants and is naturally occurring. Like caffeine, this compound can relax the muscle that keeps food and stomach acid safely in the stomach thus producing a reflux of stomach acids. Fried foods and those that contain high amounts of fat are also attributed to heartburn. Foods fried in animal fat and those that contain high levels of fat slow down the digestive system which in turn keeps the food that you eat in your stomach for a longer period of time. This causes an increase of pressure in your stomach which can weaken the esophageal flap. Once weakened, the flap will relax and allow foods and stomach acid to travel back up the esophagus and cause the symptoms of heartburn.
Of course, most people who have experienced heartburn likely know that tomato based foods can cause heartburn symptoms. These foods also relax the LES or Lower Esophageal Sphincter which keeps food and stomach acids at bay. Eating tomato based foods regularly can cause severe periods of heartburn as can drinking alcoholic beverages regularly. Drinks that contain alcohol can also relax the LES causing the contents of your stomach as well as stomach acids to enter the esophagus. Alcohol also increases the levels of stomach acid that are produced. Citrus foods and juices tend to relax the LES as well and can cause heartburn as can smoking cigarettes. The chemicals in tobacco products weaken the LES as they pass through making heartburn symptoms much worse.
One of the most common causes of heartburn is eating large meals. Having a full stomach puts pressure on the LES and significantly increases the risk of food and stomach acid rising into the esophagus. It is recommended that you eat smaller meals more often throughout the day as opposed to eating two or three larger meals each day. Lying down soon after eating causes heartburn as well. You should allow two to three hours for your food to begin digesting before going to bed or lying down. When you lie down with a full stomach, you put more pressure on the LES which in turn increases your risk for reflux.
Certain lifestyle habits such as being overweight, wearing clothing that fits too tight and smoking can cause heartburn as well. Stress is also a common cause of this condition as are certain medical conditions. Pregnant women commonly experience heartburn because of the changes in the body during this time. Other medical causes of heartburn include hiatal hernias in which the stomach bulges into the chest and taking certain medications such as aspirin and many anti-inflammatory drugs.
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