See how the foods you eat can affect your stomach muscles and cause acid reflux to occur

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We know when something is bad for you, especially when it comes to food. A voice in the back of our head tells us not to eat that greasy slice of pizza or that basket full of hot French fries, but that minuscule voice of reason is quickly silenced by our overwhelming desire to eat those deliciously bad foods. We usually feel the negative effects of eating foods like this immediately after consuming them: guilt, shame, and a burning sensation in our chest. That burning pain is also known as heartburn. Not only do we recognize when foods are bad for our health, we also know which foods can trigger heartburn and acid reflux, also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

Heartburn and acid reflux/GERD occur when the esophageal sphincter, the muscle found at the bottom of your esophagus, relaxes abnormally or weakens. This causes stomach acid to back up into your esophagus. The lower esophageal sphincter (LES) works as a valve, opening to allow food and liquid to flow into your stomach and closing to keep acid and food from flowing back up the esophagus.

Certain foods contribute to heartburn by lessening the effectiveness of the LES, allowing acid to flow back into your esophagus. Different foods can trigger heartburn and acid reflux in different people, but there are some common foods known to cause these conditions.

Common Trigger Foods

  • Chocolate
  • Soft drinks
  • Fried foods
  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine
  • High-fat meats
  • Fats, oils and sweets
  • Acidic fruits, vegetables and juices
  • Spicy foods
  • Peppermint

Chocolate can cause reflux more than any other food. It contains caffeine and other stimulants such as theobromine, which can cause reflux. It is also high in fat and in cocoa, which relaxes the LES. The bubbles in carbonated drinks can cause the stomach to distend putting pressure on the LES and causing reflux. Peppermint and alcohol are known to relax the LES. Fatty foods such as high-fat meats, fried foods and high-fat dairy products stay in the stomach longer, which can also cause the stomach to distend and increase pressure on the LES.

While antacids and over-the-counter medications can help relieve heartburn and acid reflux symptoms, you can also make some lifestyle changes to help as well.