What Causes Heartburn?
07. 06. 2017
When you experience heartburn, you may be quick to blame it on that pepperoni pizza or greasy cheeseburger you had for dinner. And while it’s true that certain foods are common triggers for acid reflux, they aren’t the only culprit. There are several factors that can contribute to heartburn, and it’s important to identify these causes when discussing a treatment plan with your doctor.
Heartburn isn’t just caused by what you eat; it’s caused by how you eat. Overeating at mealtimes or eating too quickly increases the odds that some of that food, along with digestive acids, will creep back into the esophagus and cause heartburn.
Carrying excess weight, particularly around the midsection, slows down the digestive process and increases pressure on the stomach. Both of these factors can be major contributors to acid reflux. Studies have shown that overweight individuals have a much higher risk of experiencing heartburn, but losing even just a few pounds can drastically reduce symptoms (Source: Prevention).
A twin study published in the journal Gut found evidence that genes account for roughly 43 percent of acid reflux disease. The study evaluated more than 2,000 sets of identical and fraternal twins. Researchers discovered that an identical twin was 1.5 times more likely to have heartburn if his or her twin also had it. If acid reflux runs in your family, schedule an appointment with your doctor to discuss the need for testing or treatment (Source: WebMD).
Both men and women get heartburn, but studies show that they may experience it differently. Research published in the Archives of Surgery found that women are more likely than men to have frequent and severe heartburn. They were also more likely to take medication for their symptoms. Men were more likely to have a weak lower esophageal sphincter (LES) and more likely to develop esophagitis or Barrett’s esophagus.
Your daily habits could be part of the reason you experience frequent heartburn. Drinking alcohol and smoking weaken the LES, the muscular ring that closes off the stomach from the esophagus. Wearing tight clothing, lying down after eating, lack of sleep, and exercising too soon after meals can also contribute to acid reflux.
Sometimes heartburn occurs due to structural causes, but many cases of acid reflux can be reduced or eliminated by making simple changes to your daily habits. Talk to your doctor if you have any concerns about your digestive symptoms and ask what steps you can take to improve them. Relief may be closer than you think!