What Causes Heartburn & What are its Risk Factors?

The tube connecting the stomach and mouth is called oesophagus. This tube consists of muscles which make the food pass in the form of rhythmic waves from the mouth to the stomach. The lower oesophageal sphincter muscle is the diaphragm which prevents the food from flowing back to the oesophagus. This diaphragm is at the junction of the oesophagus and stomach. The pressure difference between these two organs keeps the diaphragm shut once the food reaches to the stomach and keeps the contents within the stomach.

In the stomach, the digestion process begins as the food particles mix with acids and enzymes. The protective cells of the stomach creates a lining preventing the acids released within the stomach to cause inflammation. The same anti-inflammatory lining is not found in the oesophagus. Therefore when the acids reflux back into the oesophagus, it gets swollen up causing burning sensation and irritation. This sensation is known as heartburn.

What Causes Heartburn?

What Causes Heartburn?

The usual symptom of GERD or gastro esophageal reflux disease is heartburn which occurs when the stomach acid reflux back to the oesophagus which does not resemble the structure of the stomach and hence gets inflamed. Several kinds of foods are the primary reasons or causes of triggering heartburn. Also counter medications to bring down acid reflux if taken largely may cause heartburn.

Food that we eat break down into smaller particles by the time it reaches the stomach. Certain food items are already acidic while some of them lead to large amount of stomach acid secretion. The major foods which lead to irritation and burning due to heartburn are:

  • Alcohol especially red wine
  • Caffeinated drinks like various kinds of tea, coffee and soda.
  • Carbonated drinks
  • Fruit fruits and juices of lime, lemon, grapes, pineapple and oranges.
  • Vegetables like onion, garlic, chilli and tomatoes
  • Sauces
  • Spicy foods
  • Fried foods
  • Dairy products
  • Fatty foods
  • Chocolate
  • Meat like lamb and ham.

The medicines that lead to the cause of heartburn are:

  • Aspirin
  • Buprofen like Advil and Motrin
  • Naproxen like Aleve.

Other Major Causes That Lead to Heartburn

Smoking regularly causes acid reflux and heartburn. Smoking lead to dysfunction of the LES or lower oesophageal muscles and therefore the diaphragm does not close and open in time. In the same way, food containing high fat value causes dysfunction of the LES muscles.

If you are suffering from hiatal hernia then a part of your stomach comes to the chest instead of being in the abdominal area. Even though hiatal hernia does not cause any kind of complication in itself, the dislocation of the stomach muscles may cause trouble for the LES muscles to function properly therefore triggering heartburn.

In case of pregnancy, several hormonal changes cause larger release of stomach acids and also a pressure is created in the abdominal cavity causing acid to reflux back to the oesophagus leading to heartburn. The same pressure reaction occurs if you are an obsessed person which also is a major cause of heartburn.

Oesophageal diseases like scleroderma and sarcoidosis causes heartburn.

What are the Risk Factors of Heartburn?

The following are the risk factors of heartburn:

  • You can suffer from heartburn if you take in heavy meals daily and then have a habit of lying down immediately after the meal.
  • If you are suffering from heartburn regularly, you might become a patient of GERD.
  • Using high doses of anti-inflammatory drugs which are non-steroidal acts as a high risk factor for heartburn.
  • Heartburn creates a risk of you developing ulcer. You can also go through certain tissue damage and internal bleeding when the condition deteriorates.
  • Heartburn is a major symptom for acid reflux. If you are chronic patient of acid reflux and you suffer vigorously from heartburn, your oesophagus may get damaged and result into Barrette’s oesophagus which may lead to oesophageal cancer.

Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:April 4, 2018

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