Heartburn is a common problem. Whether you’re one of the 60 million Americans who experience heartburn once a month or one of the 15 million who may have daily symptoms, avoiding certain foods can help stop the discomfort.
Board-certified bariatric surgeon and weight-loss specialist, Dr. Mustafa Ahmed, is an expert in helping patients understand the correlation between your health and the foods you eat. He leads the team here at Southern Nevada Bariatrics in Las Vegas, Nevada, and is happy to supply information about heartburn and the foods that can trigger your symptoms.
The discomfort associated with heartburn might feel like it starts in your chest. However, the symptoms are linked to a small muscular valve at the bottom of your esophagus, the tube-shaped organ that connects your throat to your stomach.
This valve, the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), normally closes tightly after you swallow to prevent corrosive stomach acids and digestive enzymes from flowing backward into the esophagus. When the LES doesn’t close normally, these stomach juices enter the esophagus and create the burn associated with acid reflux.
What causes heartburn?
Several factors can weaken the LES and lead to frequent heartburn, including:
- Excess abdominal weight, which places extra pressure on the stomach
- Certain medications, such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and some blood pressure medicines
- Excess alcohol intake
- Large meals
- Lying down shortly after eating
Most often, however, heartburn is linked to the types of food you eat.
Foods that can trigger heartburn
Certain foods are known to weaken the LES and can also slow stomach emptying, both of which increase your risk of heartburn.
Foods that trigger heartburn include:
- French fries, onion rings, and breaded and fried vegetables
- Butter, whole milk, regular cheese, sour cream, and other fatty dairy products
- Fatty cuts of beef, hamburger, pork, or lamb
- Bacon and/or bacon fat
- Cream sauces or gravies
- Ice cream, potato chips, and other fatty snacks
- Tomatoes and tomato-based sauces used for pizza and spaghetti
- Citrus fruits
- Spicy foods such as salsa, onions, and garlic
- Chocolate, which contains an ingredient (methylxanthine) that relaxes the LES
- Products that contain mint/peppermint, such as chewing gum or breath mints
It’s important to note that your heartburn triggers may include one or many of these as well as other foods and beverages not on this list.
Can changing my diet really improve heartburn?
Avoiding or limiting foods that trigger your heartburn symptoms can greatly reduce your discomfort.
Many people, however, find relief from heartburn when they make a variety of lifestyle changes that may include weight loss and exchanging large meals for smaller, more frequent meals. Dr. Ahmed may also prescribe medication or other remedies to help relieve your symptoms.
For further help with identifying your heartburn triggers and ways to avoid frequent episodes, schedule a visit with Dr. Ahmed at Southern Nevada Bariatrics today.