Heartburn is 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 increased frequency and duration can lead to discomfort and tissue damage.
A common thought is that heartburn is caused by too much stomach acid. While that may be the case, the opposite is often the true culprit! Not having enough stomach acid can make the muscles of the esophagus weak, which lets stomach contents backflow. Other causes of GERD include:
Eating too quickly
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!”
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*
As always, remember to chew thoroughly, eat slowly, and cultivate gratitude at each meal. These habits help calm the nervous system, stimulate digestion, and give the best absorption of nutrients.
*For a more complete list of medications that cause GERD, visit click here
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