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What's Causing my Heartburn?

Of all the digestive conditions, heartburn is definitely one of the most firey. It's caused by stomach acid back-flowing into the esophagus, called gastroesophageal reflux or GERD. A little bit of reflux is normal at most meals, but a lot of reflux and at increased frequency can lead to discomfort and tissue damage.

Firepit in the sand next to water

A common thought is that heartburn is caused by too much stomach acid. Brace Yourself...

Usually it's the opposite! Not having enough stomach acid can make the muscles of the esophagus weak, which lets stomach contents backflow more easily. When there is an appropriate amount of stomach acid, the esophageal sphincter stays closed and all the stomach stays in the stomach.

What causes this to happen?

  • Stress

  • Overeating

  • Lying down too soon after eating

  • Smoking

  • Eating too quickly

  • Hiatal hernia (where part of the stomach pushes up against the diaphragm)

  • Certain medications, such as blood pressure medications

One of my mentors, Dr. Steven Sandberg-Lewis, taught me a fun way to remember the triggers of GERD with this mnemonic. “Cut out the CRAP!” I actually don't love that it's kind of a mean way to think about these foods, but it certainly helped it stick in my brain.

  • C -- coffee, chocolate, cigarettes

  • R -- refined carbohydrates, rapid eating

  • A -- alcohol, acidic foods, allergy to foods

  • P -- pop, peppermint, packin’ in the food before bedtime, and prescription medications*

Chewing food thoroughly, eating slowly, and cultivating gratitude at each meal can help calm nervous system, which then stimulates the right amount of stomach acid and absorption of nutrients.

If you've got these dialed in, but you're still having heartburn, there are lots of other tools to help support healthy stomach acid levels and prevent reflux. Request a free phone consultation to get started!

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