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Common Heartburn Causes

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 0 0

What are some typical heartburn causes? Heartburn is quite a common condition, affecting about ten percent of Americans daily. While it usually tends to be more or less of an annoyance to most people, for some it can become a more serious condition that can even hinder daily activity.

To understand what causes heartburn you should examine the normal actions of the esophagus. There is a round band of muscular tissue that surrounds the bottom part of the esophagus. Normally this muscular valve called the LES (lower esophageal sphincter) opens and closes as needed to separate the esophagus from the stomach and to keep food from rising back into the esophagus.

Sometimes the LES opens up too often or does not close tight enough. This causes powerful stomach acids to seep up into the esophagus. The stomach has specialized lining to protect it from this strong acid but the esophagus does not have this protective layer. Thus this reflux results in a painful and uncomfortable burning sensation.

So when the LES isn't as tight as it should be the results can cause heartburn. Overeating and filling your stomach with too much food and drink can weaken the LES. Obesity and pregnancy can also contribute to a large amount of pressure on the stomach and cause heartburn.

There are also certain types of food that can have a relaxing effect on the lower esophageal sphincter. These foods include tomatoes, oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruit, garlic, onions, chocolate, coffee, peppermint and other caffeinated products. These along with other substances like alcohol, carbonated beverages and acidic juices can increase the production of stomach acid and cause heartburn.

There are even some over-the-counter medications like aspirin and ibuprofen that also stimulates the production of digestive acids and irritates the esophagus, causing heartburn. Another main cause of heartburn is eating meals that contain a high amount of animal and vegetable oils and fats.

Smoking is also another factor that affects the function of the LES. It increases and stimulates stomach acid in the same way that certain foods and medications do. Smoking also decreases the production of saliva. Saliva is necessary to the health of the esophagus because it contains bicarbonates which have acid neutralizing chemicals. This lack of the necessary amount of saliva also contributes to heartburn since there isn't enough to bathe the esophagus and wash acid down to the stomach. In some smokers it has been found that smoking causes bile salts from the intestines to move up to stomach, making the acid even more harmful. Other studies have shown that some smokers have a slower and less efficient digestion which can also encourage and cause heartburn.

Chronic and severe heartburn can be an indication of a more serious condition known as gastro esophageal reflux disease (GERD) which should be treated by a physician. A hiatal hernia can also affect the way the LES works and is a risk factor for GERD. Figuring out the heartburn causes in your own individual situation and diet can help you find out what changes you may need to make. Of course, most sufferers continue eating the same type of foods and just cope by taking over-the-counter treatments. Familiarizing yourself with what can trigger heartburn can help you take steps to possibly minimize or control your condition.


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