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The Most Frequent Causes of Heartburn


Updated May 16, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

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There are several different causes of heartburn. There are several that are the most frequent causes of heartburn. Finding out what these are can help you make changes in your lifestyle and habit so you can prevent the acid reflux from happening.

Coffee, tea, and other drinks that contain caffeine
Caffeine can relax the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), allowing stomach contents to reflux into the esophagus.

Chocolate contains concentrations of theobromine (a compound that occurs naturally in many plants such as cocoa, tea and coffee plants), which relaxes the esophageal sphincter muscle, letting stomach acid squirt up into the esophagus.

Fried and fatty foods
These foods tend to slow down digestion, keeping the food in your stomach longer. This can result in increases pressure in the stomach, which in turn puts more pressure on a weakened LES, allowing reflux of stomach contents.

Tomatoes and tomato-based products
These foods relax the lower esophageal sphincter (LES).

Alcohol relaxes the lower esophageal sphincter, allowing the reflux of stomach contents into the esophagus. It also increases the production of stomach acid.

The chemicals in cigarette smoke weaken the LES as they pass from the lungs into the blood.

Large meals
A full stomach can put extra pressure on the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), which will increase the chance that some of this food will reflux into the esophagus.

Citrus fruits and juices
These foods relax the lower esophageal sphincter (LES).

Eating within 2 to 3 hours prior to bedtime
Lying down with a full stomach can cause stomach contents to press harder against the LES, increasing the chances of refluxed food.

Wearing tight fitting clothing
Clothing that fits tightly around the abdomen will squeeze the stomach, forcing food up against the LES, and cause food to reflux into the esophagus. Clothing that can cause problems include tight-fitting belts and slenderizing undergarments.


Related Information:
  • Foods With Little Risk of Causing Heartburn
  • Foods To Be Consumed with Discretion
  • Foods To Be Limited
  • Heartburn and Alcohol
  • Heartburn and Smoking
  • Easing Nighttime Heartburn

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