What Causes Heartburn?

The clinical cause of this illness is due to the action of acid rising up through the valve that normally keeps it contained within the stomach. This is what is known as gastroesophageal reflux. A handful of risk factors can increase the chances of developing this condition known as acid reflux. There may be structural problems with an area known as the lower oesophageal sphincter or an improper pressure between the diaphragm and the oesophagus may cause acid to rise up unintentionally and cause pain and burning.

Many foods can exacerbate this condition. Spicy items as well as foods that are high in fat can cause an overproduction of stomach acid while alcohol can irritate the lining of the oesophagus and stomach. Caffeine and carbonated beverages will also lead to frequent heartburn as will citrus fruits and chocolate.

Obesity and smoking are also common causes. Smoking will cause the lower oesophageal sphincter to relax while obesity can increase inter-abdominal pressure and lead to the stomach valve unintentionally opening. Additionally, it has been known for some time that stress can lead to an excess production of stomach acid.

Main causes of heartburn:
  • Structural problems in the lower oesophageal sphincter.
  • The consumption of irritating or spicy foods and drinks.
  • Obesity, smoking and stress.

The Confusion Between Heartburn and Heart Problems

One of the dangers is confusing heartburn symptoms for those of heart disease or even an impending heart attack, with even some doctors confusing the two. This is mainly due to the fact that the chest pain exhibited can appear similar in both cases, even possibly radiating up to the neck or jaw as it would during heart attacks. However, acute attacks of heartburn have a few telltale signs.

A sour taste in the mouth is frequently observed with the pain. Also, the act of bending over will sometimes relieve pressure. Heartburn often occurs when lying down or on one's side. It most frequently occurs between fifteen and thirty minutes after a heavy meal.

Signs of heartburn:
  • A sour taste in the mouth.
  • A relief of pressure when bending over.
  • Heartburn is most prevalent when lying down or on one's side.
  • Pain after a meal can be a sign of heartburn.


There are a number of heartburn treatment options currently available. One of the most effective is to avoid diets high in the aforementioned substances. Any foods that will cause an excess of acid to be produced should be avoided. Over-the-counter antacids can also be used with success. If these antacids prove little relief, prescription medication may be taken. In rare cases, surgery may need to be performed to correct a defect in the lower oesophageal sphincter.

Treatment options:
  • Avoidance of acidic foods.
  • Over-the-counter or prescription medication.
  • In rare cases, surgery.