The Cause Of Heartburn – What Causes Heartburn?


The cause of heartburn and burning in the throat is quite simple. When you eat food, it passes through your mouth and down your esophagus. The esophagus is a long tube that connects your mouth and your stomach.

Between the esophagus and the stomach, there is the lower esophageal sphincter or LES for short. The  LES works like a door; when food is arriving via the esophagus the LES opens and lets the food pass through. After the food has passed through the LES closes again to contain the food and acid in the stomach.

Heartburn occurs when, for one reason or another, the LES opens up when there is no food entering the stomach. This permits stomach acid to leak through the LES into the esophagus, causing irritation and a burning feeling in the throat.

The cause of heartburn is acid that seeps into the esophagus

Heartburn is not something to worry about if you get it every now and then. But if you frequently suffer from it, there is a good chance you have GERD (Gastroesophageal reflux disease). GERD is the medical name for chronic heartburn and it can lead to serious problems.

The cause of heartburn and GERD is acid that seeps through the LES. This acid can cause inflammation in the esophagus. If this continues, ulcers might develop and if left untreated the ulcers can start to bleed. Bleeding ulcers often need surgery to treat and can cause many complications.

Other problems with chronic heartburn or GERD are the development of scar tissue in the esophagus. This scar tissue restricts the esophagus and makes it difficult to swallow. The worst case that can happen to people suffering from GERD is esophageal cancer (cancer in the esophagus). Esophageal cancer is very difficult to treat and has a high mortality rate. It is estimated that 10% of people suffering from GERD will develop esophageal cancer.

There are several reasons why acid leaks into the esophagus. The LES can happen to be relaxed, and this is often because of certain foods or drinks. Pressure on the stomach can force stomach acid up into the esophagus. Additionally, overeating can also be a heartburn cause, by putting pressure on the LES, it forces food and acid to return to the esophagus.

The most common foods that relax the LES are listed below. To get heartburn relief, simply remove them from your diet.

Things that is the cause of heartburn:

Caffeine – Caffeine is known to relax the LES. The most common sources of caffeine are coffee and tea but anything else that contains caffeine should be also avoided. Tomatoes and citrus fruits – These fruits relax the LES. It doesn’t matter if you consume them raw, cooked, or as juice. Cacao – Cacao is mainly found in chocolate but also in many other kinds of snacks and foods.

Alcohol – Any kind of alcoholic beverages will cause the LES to relax Tobacco – Not only smoking will weaken the LES but also second-hand smoking can cause problems for the LES. Carbonated drinks – Any kind of drink that is carbonated can cause the LES to relax. Spicy food – Any kind of spicy food should be avoided. (Update, small amounts of chili have shown to help heartburn).

Pressure on the stomach can also cause heartburn

Pressure on the stomach can be both external and internal. External pressure is often due to being overweight. The excess weight simply presses on the stomach and forces the stomach acid up into the esophagus causing burning in the chest and throat and other symptoms of heartburn. Other external pressures can be tight-fitting clothes and lying down after eating. When you lay down, gravity pulls the stomach down putting more pressure on it.

The most common cause of internal pressure on the stomach is overeating and eating big amounts of fatty foods. Foods high in fat take a long time to digest and in doing so puts pressure on the stomach which can force stomach acid up into the esophagus.

Pregnancy also increases the internal pressure and can cause heartburn during pregnancy. As the child grows inside the mother, more and more pressure is forced upon the stomach. This increase in pressure is often a cause of heartburn in pregnancy.