It’s Not Just What You Eat

Heartburn: It’s Not Just What You Eat

Heartburn is a very common problem in the United States; in fact, over 60 million people get acid reflux at least once a month. It’s an unpleasant experience to say the least, and for those who are unfortunate to have gastro esophageal reflux disease (GERD), the pain can occur almost daily.

We all know what foods to stay away from in order to avoid the dreaded heartburn: spicy foods are a no-no, as are chocolate, citric fruits such as lemons and limes, and fried foods. But there plenty of other ways to get heartburn and they have little to do with what you shovel in your mouth. Here are three things that can cause you to have heartburn even when you avoid the common triggers.

Too much stress

Stress is not a friend of your body; it forces your body to make poor decisions and the end result is an unhealthy you. The main reason is due to the fact that when you are stressed you are more aware of your ailments. This is true for heartburn as well.

According to a recent study published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research, there is no actual evidence that shows stress increases the levels of acid in your stomach; however, the researchers did suggest that since you are stressed you are more aware of the discomfort of mild heartburn and will therefore feel like your heartburn is worse than it actually is. In other words, your perception of the discomfort will be heightened when you have too much stress.


Smoking can make your heartburn even worse, adding another item to the laundry list of reasons why you should finally quit. Heartburn is caused when the acids in your stomach rise up into your esophagus, giving you that trademark feeling in your chest. When you smoke, the valve that lies between your stomach and your esophagus is weakened which allows acid to easily move into the esophagus. Smoking also decreases the amount of saliva your body produces. Saliva is a very useful agent to fight heartburn, since it forces excess acid down into your stomach and out of your esophagus. Saliva also contains bicarbonate, a natural antacid.

Smoking will significantly increase your heartburn if you already have it. If you are taking antacid medicine, it would be counter-productive to smoke when you have heartburn. But out while you have acid reflux.


According to study conducted in 2003 and published in the Journal of the American Medical Foundation, heartburn levels are higher if you are overweight. The study suggested that heartburn is directly related to your Body-Mass Index (BMI). The relationship between your weight and heartburn is even greater with women than with men, especially in premenopausal women.

Doctors and researchers have varying theories on why weight affects heartburn levels. Some reasons include a poor diet (with fatty foods) and too much fat in the abdomen. Others believe that since there is a greater amount of fat to release chemicals into the body, heartburn is more likely. It is likely that all are contributing factors.