Heartburn occurs when stomach acid escapes into the oesophagus, causing irritation which leads to that burning pain or discomfort in the chest. It’s caused by different things in different people, but here are some of the most common heartburn triggers that you may want to avoid if you experience it frequently.
Large Meals may be Heartburn Triggers
Heartburn most commonly occurs after eating a large meal. When your stomach is filled with too much food, it stretches, putting pressure on the lower oesophageal sphincter (LOS) – the muscle that keeps stomach acids from moving in the wrong direction.
This can allow some of those acids to make their way to the oesophagus, resulting in heartburn. Reducing your portion sizes will help you prevent this unpleasant effect, as well as generally making your diet a little healthier. You should also avoid lying down after meals as this makes digestion more difficult and heartburn more likely.
Certain Foods and Drinks
Large amounts of any type of food can trigger heartburn, but fatty foods in particular are a common trigger. Other foods and drinks which can sometimes irritate the oesophagus include spicy meals, alcohol, black pepper, garlic, raw onions, chocolate, citrus fruits, coffee and peppermint.
If you find that one or more of these foods are regularly causing heartburn, you may want to cut them out of your diet or simply cut down on the amount you eat. Consuming potentially problematic foods in moderation is often enough to reduce this type of digestive problem.
Some body positions – particularly ones which involve a lot of bending over or leg lifts – can increase pressure on the abdomen, encouraging stomach acid to make its way to the oesophagus. For this reason, physical activities such as yoga moves and sit-ups can sometimes trigger heartburn. Jogging and some aerobic exercises can also cause problems by sloshing the contents of the stomach around and upwards.
Exercise is an important part of your routine so instead of cutting those physical activities out, avoid triggering heartburn symptoms by not exercising on a full stomach. Try to wait until around two hours after eating to begin your exercising, and drink plenty of water before you start.
Medicines which may trigger heartburn
There are various different medicines that can increase your risk of heartburn or make heartburn worse. Frequent use of common anti-inflammatory painkillers, such as aspirin and ibuprofen, can have these negative effects because they can irritate the lining of the stomach. A number of prescription medicines can also be problematic.
Medication for high blood pressure and heart disease can trigger heartburn, as well as beta-blockers and alpha-blockers, which relax the LOS muscle, making it easy for your stomach acids to retreat backwards. These are just a few of the many drugs that have been linked to heartburn. If any kind of medicine is giving you heartburn or making your heartburn worse, make sure you discuss it with your doctor, who may be able to suggest alternatives.
Heartburn can be painful, can interrupt your sleep and can generally interfere with your daily routine. If you find yourself regularly suffering from heartburn, make sure you pay close attention to your diet and activities so you can identify your particular heartburn triggers and learn how to avoid them.
The occasional episode of heartburn is usually nothing to worry about, but you should make an appointment with your GP if you experience it more than twice a week, as you may need a daily preventative medicine.
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