Heartburn, also known as acid reflux, is a common condition that occurs when stomach acid flows back into the esophagus. The main cause of heartburn is a malfunctioning lower esophageal sphincter (LES), a muscle valve that separates the esophagus and the stomach.
The following are the most common causes of heartburn:
- The LES muscle may not close properly or may relax at the wrong time, allowing stomach acid to flow back into the esophagus.
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a chronic condition in which the LES does not function properly. This can be caused by a variety of factors, including a hiatal hernia, a condition in which the upper part of the stomach bulges through an opening in the diaphragm.
- Eating certain foods and drinks such as spicy foods, citrus fruits, tomato-based products, chocolate, caffeine, and alcohol, can relax the LES and increase the likelihood of acid reflux.
- Obesity and being overweight can put pressure on the stomach and increase the likelihood of acid reflux.
- Pregnancy can cause heartburn due to the pressure that the growing fetus puts on the stomach.
- Certain medications, including aspirin, ibuprofen, and certain blood pressure medications, can also cause heartburn by relaxing the LES.
It’s important to see a doctor if you have frequent or severe heartburn symptoms, as it could be a sign of a more serious underlying condition.