11 Foods That Can Cause Heartburn
Heartburn affects more than 60 million Americans every month ().
It is best described as a painful, burning sensation that occurs in the lower chest area.
Heartburn is a symptom of acid reflux, a condition where stomach acid escapes into the esophagus, the tube that delivers food and beverages to your stomach.
Normally, stomach acid cannot escape into the esophagus because of a barrier called the lower esophageal sphincter. This is a ring-like muscle that naturally stays closed, and normally only opens when you swallow or belch ().
However, in people with acid reflux, this muscle is often weakened. This is one reason why people with acid reflux experience heartburn ().
Diet plays an important role in heartburn. Many foods can relax the lower esophageal sphincter, which allows food to escape into the esophagus and cause heartburn.
Here are 11 foods that can cause heartburn.
1. High-Fat Foods
High-fat foods may cause heartburn. Unfortunately, this includes incredibly healthy and nutritious foods like avocados, cheese and nuts ().
There are two ways that high-fat foods can trigger heartburn.
First, they may relax the lower esophageal sphincter, the muscle that acts as a barrier between the esophagus and the stomach. When this muscle relaxes, stomach acid can escape from the stomach into the esophagus and cause heartburn ().
Second, high-fat foods stimulate the release of the hormone cholecystokinin (CCK). This hormone may also relax the lower esophageal sphincter and cause acid reflux (6, ).
In addition, CCK encourages food to stay in the stomach longer so it can be better digested. Sadly, this may also increase the risk of acid reflux, which can cause heartburn ().
It’s important to note that this does not only apply to healthy foods that are rich in fats. It also applies to fried foods and takeout meals that are high in fat.
SUMMARYFoods that are high in fat may cause heartburn by relaxing the lower esophageal sphincter. Fat also promotes the release of CCK, which may relax the sphincter and let food sit in the stomach for longer — both risk factors for heartburn.