What REALLY Causes Heartburn?

Get the facts on acid indigestion and reflux.

Heartburn has nothing to do with your heart, but the burning symptoms in the chest and throat may feel like you’re experiencing burning in that area. Unlike heart disease, heartburn has to do with your stomach. It’s caused when acids from the stomach flow the wrong way, into the esophagus, and cause painful symptoms.

Who gets heartburn?
Heartburn can affect anyone, but it may be more common during pregnancy, in people with a hiatal hernia and in individuals who are obese. Diet is also big factor when it comes to heartburn and its more serious condition, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

What causes heartburn?
Heartburn is caused by stomach acids. Normally the opening between the stomach and esophagus prevents stomach acids from flowing the wrong way. If stomach acids escape, this is called reflux. Acid reflux causes the painful symptoms of heartburn.

What makes heartburn worse?
Many factors can contribute to heartburn. If you experience heartburn, do what you can to avoid these triggers. They include overeating, lying down after eating and eating trigger foods. Stress, pregnancy and obesity can also contribute to heartburn, according to FamilyDoctor.org.

What should you avoid eating?
Many foods can trigger heartburn. They are different for everyone, but foods that seem to bother most people include acidic foods like citrus and tomatoes, onions, mint, chocolate, oily or fatty foods, spicy food and carbonation. Alcohol and smoking also make heartburn worse. If you smoke, find out how to quit today.

Learn more about heartburn at Oak Hill Hospital's online health library. If you have any questions or would like a physician referral, call our free Consult-a-Nurse® service at 1-888-741-5120.

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