Heartburn is a very common ailment afflicting millions of people. Some people suffer from heartburn at least once in a month while there are others for whom this condition is a constant companion. The usual reasons stated for heartburn include spicy and/or oily food. Over-eating is another common culprit, especially around the holidays! However, placing all the blame squarely on the kinds of food you eat is not correct. In fact, there are quite a few other heartburn triggers that are generally the major culprits if it afflicts you frequently despite a nutritious and healthy diet.
Main Causes of Heartburn
Smoking: People suffering from gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD as it is commonly referred to, can exacerbate their condition by smoking. The valve that separates the esophagus from the stomach is weakened due to smoking. This causes the stomach acids to flow from the stomach into the esophagus which can lead to acute heartburn.
Medicines: Abusing medicines is always a bad idea. If you are the kind of person who reaches for your medicine cabinet every time you feel a pinch in your head or get a sniffly nose, chances are you are a great candidate for heartburn. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen and naproxen can cause heartburn. Some prescription drugs like antibiotics, sedatives etc can also lead to heartburn. Check with your doctor if you take any of these medicines and are a sufferer of frequent heartburn.
Chocolate: Unfortunately, it’s true! Chocolate contains theobromine a compound which relaxes the esophageal sphincter muscle, letting stomach acid travel back up into the esophagus. Chocolate also contains caffeine, which is another one of the heartburn triggers.
Supplements containing fish oil: Omega-3 fatty acids are found in fish oils and are very good for preventing heart diseases, depression and several other health ailments. However, the side effect of this wonder fatty acid is that it can trigger heartburn.
Stress: This is a well known trigger for heartburn. However, contrary to the popular belief that stress causes an increase in production of stomach acids which results in heartburn, the acid production does not increase greatly due to stress. Instead the perception of heartburn is sharpened in stressed out people. The pain receptors in the esophagus might become over-sensitive due to stress and might be the cause of frequent heartburn.
Peppermint: This is considered beneficial for treating stomach upsets. However, for people suffering from GERD this might prove to be a bane. Peppermint can numb the valve that separates the esophagus from the stomach causing stomach acids to flow into the esophagus causing heartburn.
Being overweight: People who are obese and have a higher body mass index (BMI) suffer more from heartburn than those with a lean body. The association might be due to bad food habits, less exercise or may even be due to the chemicals released by the excessive fat in the body.
Genes: That’s right, your parent’s diet and not yours might be the culprit triggering your heartburn. Genes contribute almost 45 percent to the occurrence of heartburn in people. The rest is caused by what you eat and your habits.
These are some of the common and often overlooked reasons that are key heartburn triggers. A balanced diet accompanied by moderate exercise can help in relieving heartburn.
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