What Causes Heartburn?

Stop the burning sensation and eat with peace of mind

Heartburn is a common complaint which causes pain and discomfort in the upper digestive tract, usually as a burning sensation in the chest. Many people experience heartburn on a daily basis and it’s common in pregnancy and with the elderly. Learn what causes heartburn, culprit foods that exacerbate symptoms and our top 10 tips for heartburn.

What causes heartburn?

There are numerous reasons why someone may experience heartburn. It could be due to a stomach abnormality such as hiatus hernia, obesity or medications like aspirin; or it can be caused by dietary and lifestyle factors.

Here are the most common causes of heartburn:

  • GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease) which is a disorder that occurs when stomach acid flows back towards the oesophagus (the tube that connects your mouth and stomach), causing irritation to the tissues and lining. Symptoms include acid reflux, heartburn and regurgitation (the sensation of acid in your mouth or throat).
  • Acidic and inflammatory foods which tend to increase stomach acid production and exacerbate symptoms.
  • Pregnancy due to the surge in hormones and because a woman’s digestive organs are compressed to accommodate the growing baby.
  • Stress increases stomach acid production and causes muscle tension around the stomach, triggering it to push more acid up towards the oesophagus.
  • Smoking as it damages the stomach lining and increases acid production.
  • Helicobacter pylori infection.This is a type of bacteria which lives in the stomach and can aggravate the stomach lining, causing heartburn, reflux and ulcers.

Foods that cause heartburn

  • Spicy foods and hot spices such as chilli, cayenne pepper and hot paprika
  • Red meat and processed deli meats
  • Garlic and onions
  • Gluten-containing foods and refined carbohydrates such as bread, pizza, pastries, pasta/ spaghetti, refined cereals, white rice, cakes and biscuits
  • Citrus fruits and fruit juices
  • Tomatoes and tomato-based sauces
  • Chocolate, including dark chocolate
  • Sugar (in any form)
  • High fat foods and fried food
  • Dairy products including yoghurt and ice cream
  • Alcohol (all types)
  • Carbonated drinks including fizzy water
  • Coffee and caffeinated drinks

Here’s our top 10 tips for heartburn:

  1. Avoiding trigger foods is key. Keep a food diary to see which foods make your heartburn worse.
  2. Reduce your acid load and alkalise your body by eliminating high acid foods such as meat and dairy. Instead, increase your intake of alkaline foods like leafy green vegetables, cauliflower, broccoli and root vegetables.

3. Take time to eat and chew your food to allow your digestive system to work efficiently and digest the food.

4. Avoid eating big heavy meals before bedtime. Allow two hours for your body to digest the food properly before lying down. This enables the food to move from the stomach to the small intestine where it is further digested.

5. Don’t drink while eating as the liquid can dilute your stomach acid, making digestion difficult.

6. Eat oatmeal porridge in the morning, either made with water or a dairy-free milk. It’s a fantastic source of fibre and it keeps you fuller for longer, helping to stave off reflux and heartburn symptoms.

7. Have raw organic apple cider vinegar (1tsp) in water fifteen minutes before meals to help stimulate your digestive juices and neutralise stomach acid. It’s an effective remedy for heartburn and reflux; and it also helps to alkalise the body.

8. Aloe Vera and Slippery Elm are wonderful mucilage herbswhich have anti-inflammatory properties and help heal your stomach lining, reducing the irritation caused by the acid.

 9. Drink herbal tea in the morning. Turmeric tea is particularly recommended due to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties; it helps to relieve symptoms associated with GERD.

 10. Sodium bicarbonate (bicarb),also known as baking soda, is a natural antacid and is fantastic for heartburn. Add 1 tsp of bicarb to a cup. Half fill the cup with boiled water and then add room temperature water until the cup is full. Sip it throughout the day. Only drink one to two cups per day and stop when your heartburn is under control.

Beat the burn

Heartburn is an uncomfortable burning sensation associated with GERD. Unless there is an underlying pathology such as hiatus hernia or Helicobacter pylori, heartburn can be easily managed through diet and lifestyle. Alkalise your diet, avoid acidic trigger foods and heal up your stomach lining with soothing aloe vera. Taking time to eat and chew your foods properly will also help minimise symptoms.

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