Hidden Heartburn Triggers

09. 06. 2017

If avoiding heartburn was easy, everyone would be doing it. But the truth is, more than half of the American population struggles with heartburn on a monthly basis, and an estimated 10 to 20 percent have it almost every day. Why is this digestive symptom such a persistent problem?

There are several well-known triggers that can contribute to heartburn. Spicy foods, alcohol, smoking, and obesity are all known to contribute to acid reflux. However, many individuals develop heartburn due to hidden triggers that they may not even recognize. If you’re struggling with persistent heartburn despite making healthy changes to your diet and lifestyle, consider these sneaky culprits that could be at the root of your problem:


Research published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology found that patients experience more pain associated with acid reflux when they are feeling stressed or anxious. This may be due to the fact that stress promotes changes in the brain which turn up pain receptors, making the physical symptoms of acid reflux seem even worse. If you notice that acid reflux seems to coincide with stressful situations, try relieving your symptoms with simple relaxation techniques like meditation or yoga.

Inadequate sleep

Lack of sleep is a common problem for many Americans, and it could be a hidden cause for acid reflux. Inadequate sleep can lead to poor function of the lower esophageal sphincter, the muscular valve that closes off the stomach from the esophagus. Lack of sleep can also increase acid production in the stomach, making it even more likely that you will experience heartburn. Aim for at least 7 to 9 hours of quality sleep each night to help prevent the occurrence of acid reflux.

Uncommon trigger foods

Certain foods like tomatoes, garlic and onions are called trigger foods because they are known to be problematic for many heartburn sufferers. However, there is no such thing as a true universal trigger food. What causes heartburn in one person may not affect you at all, and vice versa. If you’ve already removed common heartburn trigger foods from your diet, try keeping a food journal to identify other foods that are causing your symptoms.


Certain medications and supplements can irritate the esophageal lining or worsen symptoms of acid reflux. Talk to your doctor about any prescription or over-the-counter medications and supplements you are currently taking, and discuss whether any of these could be linked to your persistent heartburn symptoms. You may be able to switch to a different medication that is less likely to cause digestive issues, but you should never make these changes without approval from your doctor.

Heartburn isn’t always avoidable, but it can often be controlled with the right combination of diet, lifestyle changes and treatment options. Talk to your doctor about possible hidden triggers that could be contributing to your acid reflux symptoms, and discuss a treatment plan that will fit your lifestyle. Relief could be closer than you realize!

Related articles:

Treating Heartburn with Lifestyle Changes
Start a Food Journal to Determine Trigger Foods for Heartburn

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