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What are some causes of heartburn?

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Quick Answer

When stomach acid reverses direction and heads back up the esophagus, the effect is heartburn, according to Mayo Clinic. This generally happens when acid moves past the lower esophageal sphincter, a muscle at the lower end of the esophagus.

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Full Answer

Normal swallowing involves the relaxation of the lower esophageal sphincter. The food and drink that people consume then flows into the stomach to begin digestion. After the food moves through, the sphincter tightens once again to keep everything in the stomach. When this muscle relaxes anomalously or becomes weak, stomach acid can make its way into the esophagus in a phenomenon known as acid reflux, leading to heartburn. Lying down or bending over can worsen this backup, notes Mayo Clinic.

Heartburn has a number of risk factors. Obesity and pregnancy can elevate the risk of triggering acid reflux and the subsequent heartburn. Eating some foods and drinking certain beverages can lead to heartburn for some. Common trigger foods include peppermint, onions, chocolate and tomato products, such as ketchup. Citrus foods can also trigger heartburn as can spicy foods. Sitting down to a meal that is particularly large or predominantly fatty can cause heartburn in some people as well, as stated by Mayo Clinic.

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