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Six Surprising Things That Can Trigger Heartburn

  June 02, 2017


Submitted by Illinois Bariatric Center

Most people who suffer from heartburn know that certain foods tend to aggravate the condition. These include tomatoes, tomato sauces, and citrus, fried, or spicy foods. Smoking and alcohol are also very common culprits. There are many more heartburn triggers that aren’t as well-known. This may be because many of these foods are very healthy, and people are generally encouraged to consume more of them. However, they could be a trigger for those prone to heartburn.

Remember that the terms heartburn, acid reflux, and GERD are often used interchangeably, but they actually have very different meanings. Acid reflux is a very common medical condition that may or may not be serious. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is the chronic, more severe form of acid reflux. Heartburn is a symptom of both GERD and acid reflux. Heartburn is caused by a lower esophageal sphincter (LES), a ring of smooth muscle fibers located between the esophagus and the stomach, which is not functioning properly. The LES normally acts as a one-way valve to allow food into the stomach but prevents stomach acid from moving back up into the esophagus and thus preventing heartburn.

Following are six surprising foods that are common triggers for heartburn.
Peppermint — Peppermint is often a remedy to sooth an upset stomach, so it’s natural to assume that it would also help to avoid heartburn. Peppermint actually works to relax the LES, which makes it easier for the acid to flow back up from the stomach to the esophagus.
Chocolate — Like peppermint, chocolate also tends to relax the LES. In addition, chocolate is a high-fat food, and foods high in fat tend to stay in the stomach longer, which causes more pressure on the LES, making heartburn more likely.
Dairy Products — Milk has traditionally been recommended as a way to settle the stomach, but studies show that cow’s milk actually stimulates the production of acid. Most dairy products, including cheese, are generally high in fat. Any type of fatty food can often be a heartburn trigger.
Avocado — Avocados seem to be the new wonder food: full of vitamins and minerals that help to fight off disease, low in sugar, and high in fiber. Avocados also have a high amount of fat, even though it is the healthy kind of fat. Like dairy products, fatty foods slow down digestion, which can trigger heartburn.
Eggs — Specifically, it is the egg yolk that may trigger heartburn. This is because the yolk is high in fat. Egg whites are seldom a cause for concern.
Iced Tea — It’s actually the caffeine in tea that tends to promote the production of acid and also weaken the LES. Caffeine is found in many other foods and drinks besides coffee. Many kinds of soda and some brands of energy water include caffeine. It is also found in many pain medicines and protein bars. Even decaf coffee still contains caffeine, just not as much. If you are drinking many cups a day, the amount of caffeine consumed will add up.

Heartburn triggers can be very individual. A food that bothers one person may have no effect on someone else. It’s not just what you eat, but how much and when. A slice or two of pizza in the afternoon might be just fine, but consuming half a pizza along with a couple beers and chocolate cake for dessert will likely cause a problem! 

Heartburn is nothing to worry about if it only occurs once or twice a week, but frequent heartburn should not be ignored as it is the most common symptom of acid reflux and GERD, which can lead to serious health problems, including damage to the esophagus. If diet and lifestyle changes, such as losing weight and not smoking, do not reduce symptoms, then it’s important to see a physician for further treatment.

Your doctor may often prescribe medication, but medications come with their own set of risks and side effects and don’t really address the underlying cause. However, there is a new method that has recently been approved by the FDA for treating acid reflux. This method, called the LINX System, inserts a tiny magnetic ring that allows food to pass through into the stomach, but stays closed otherwise so food cannot back-up into the esophagus. It is a minimally invasive, outpatient procedure that addresses the root cause of acid reflux rather than just masking the symptoms.

If you think you have acid reflux or GERD, you should see your doctor as these conditions can lead to more serious health problems over time.

For more information on the LINX system for acid reflux, the ORBERA™ Managed Weight Loss Program or LAP-BAND® surgery, you may contact Dr. Sidney Rohrscheib at the Illinois Bariatric Center at 217-935-7037. Illinois Bariatric Center is one of the few practices in Central Illinois that is qualified to offer the non-surgical LINX and ORBERA systems. Back to Top

June 02, 2017

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