What causes heartburn? There's a ring-shaped muscle called the esophageal sphincter that lies at the base of your esophagus where it meets the top of your stomach. The muscle is supposed to keep your stomach contents from coming back into your esophagus and causing heartburn.
A lot of heartburn issues are "self-inflicted," meaning we cause it with our own habits. In fact, there are three surefire ways to give yourself heartburn:
- Even if you're full, keep eating. If your stomach is very full, an action as simple as sitting or bending over can compress the contents and force them through the esophageal sphincter.
- Eat late in the day. Production of your digestive juices (acids and enzymes) increases between about 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. If you eat a big meal then head off to bed, your stomach will be full when you lie down, and the highly acidic stomach contents can leak through the sphincter.
- Eat foods that "disagree with you." As food ferments in your stomach, it creates gas. This gas increases the pressure within your stomach, creating an uncomfortable feeling of bloating. Once the pressure reaches a certain point, it overcomes the sphincter and the gas is released as a burp. If this happens often enough, it can weaken the sphincter over time.
The solution for heartburn is easy and obvious: Change your eating habits!
Do you suffer from heartburn? I invite you to share your solutions.