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Common Heartburn Triggers

Common Heartburn Triggers

by Alex Brecher June 30, 2022 5 min read

Heartburn is painful and painfully common. You might feel a burning sensation in your chest after you eat or take some medications. There are some common triggers that people seem to notice, and if you can pinpoint your own triggers and avoid them, you may be able to keep heartburn away. Switching to Alex’s Acid Free Coffee is an example of a substitute that you can use instead of a common trigger - coffee.

If you have heartburn, be sure to talk to a doctor. Having acid reflux often can be a sign of a more serious condition that has its own risks. 

Eating Large Meals

Heartburn is caused by acid coming up from your stomach to the lower esophagus through a ringlike muscle called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). It happens when the LES relaxes so acid from the stomach can rise. 

Eating big meals makes your stomach more full. That can put pressure on the LES and make it relax, or open more easily, when it shouldn’t. That can increase the risk for heartburn. You can eat smaller meals by taking smaller portions. If you are still hungry, try waiting for a few minutes before serving yourself more to see if you are truly hungry.

Fatty Foods

Fatty foods take longer to digest. That means they stay in the stomach for longer, so your stomach can feel more full. A full stomach means there is more pressure on the LES. These are some examples of fatty foods.

  • Fried foods, such as French fries, doughnuts, and fried chicken.
  • Pizza, burgers, burritos, and other fast foods.
  • Fatty processed meats, such as salami and bologna.
  • Fatty meats, such as chicken with skin, fatty steaks, and fatty ribs.
  • Butter and full-fat cheese.

List of Foods That Trigger Heartburn

Certain other foods and beverages are often cited as heartburn triggers.

  • Spicy foods, including foods with a lot of pepper or jalapeno.
  • Coffee and tea.
  • Carbonated beverages.
  • Tomatoes and tomato sauce.
  • Citrus fruits, such as lemons, oranges, and grapefruits, and their juices
  • Onions and garlic.
  • Refined carbs and sugars.

Exercise as a Heartburn Trigger

Exercise is good for you in most ways, but there is a potential drawback to doing certain exercises on a full stomach. Since excess pressure from the stomach on the LES is a heartburn trigger, abdominal exercises that require your stomach muscles to contract can trigger heartburn, especially after you eat. Crunches and planks, for example, may trigger heartburn.

Other exercises that can trigger heartburn are these.

  • Leg workouts, since lifting the legs involves the abs.
  • Positions that require you to invert yourself, such as headstands and downward dogs, since the contents in your stomach would push on the LES while you’re upside-down.
  • Running and jumping rope, since you’re bouncing up and down and that can make what’s in your stomach push up on the LES.

Still, don’t confuse exercise as a heartburn trigger with an excuse not to exercise!

Medications That Can Trigger Heartburn

Some medications may also trigger heartburn. Ask your doctor if you think any of your medications may be causing acid reflux. Some meds for hypertension, osteoporosis, asthma, and depression may cause heartburn. Even regular use of some over-the-counter painkillers can trigger it.

Switching to a Low Acid Coffee to Prevent Heartburn

Coffee may be a common trigger, but the great news is that you can choose a low acid coffee instead. Alex’s Acid Free Coffee has a lower acid content than the average of some of the top brands, including Dunkin’ Donuts and Starbucks. It tastes mellow, smooth, and balanced.

If caffeine appears to be a trigger for you, you might consider Alex’s Acid Free Coffee in Decaf. It comes in the same Whole Bean and Ground Options, and is just as fresh and tasty. It’s also the natural choice in the afternoon or evening, since you don’t want to have to deal with caffeine keeping you up at night!

More Tips for Preventing Heartburn

Since not everyone has the same heartburn triggers, you may have to do some experimentation to see what may be a trigger for you. It can help to keep a journal that includes what you ate and drank, which medication(s) you took, and your exercise workouts, and when you got heartburn. 

There are some steps you can take to try to prevent heartburn. 

  • Eat slowly and chew your food thoroughly before swallowing. It can help to put your fork or spoon down between bites and to count to 30 chews before you swallow. While that can be a burden at first, you can soon build the habit of chewing more and may not need to count anymore.
  • Finish eating earlier before bedtime. If you have a small or moderate dinner without a snack afterwards, try ending dinner at least 2 to 3 hours before bedtime. If you plan to have an evening snack, try to finish the snack at least 2 hours before bedtime.
  • Lose weight. Extra weight can make heartburn more likely by putting more pressure on your LES. You can lose weight by taking smaller portions, substituting vegetables and fruit for fatty foods, and limiting sugars and refined starches.
  • Choose lower-acid versions of foods and beverages. For example, you might mix olive oil and basil into whole-grain pasta instead of using tomato sauce. Or you could drink low-acid coffee, such as Alex’s Acid-Free Coffee, instead of a higher-acid brand. To further lower the risk of heartburn, you can try Alex’s Acid-Free Coffee in Decaf or Half Caff.
  • Exercise once you have a chance to digest your food so your stomach isn’t full when you start.

You might want to have an over-the-counter antacid on hand if you have occasional heartburn. It can relieve symptoms fairly quickly. Ask your doctor which one might be best for you, when to use it, and what the dosing is. 

Be sure to talk to your doctor if your heartburn is more than occasional, because it could be a sign that you have gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD. 

While heartburn triggers are not the same for all people, there are some that are reported often. By swapping out some trigger foods and being mindful about exercising on a full stomach, you may be able to prevent heartburn. Alex’s Acid Free Coffee is a reduced acid coffee that also comes in a decaf version. Ask your doctor if it may be a good choice if you love coffee but think it’s a trigger for you.



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