What causes heartburn: understand the burning and know what to do

The heartburn is a very common stomach discomfort. It can occur sporadically, after eating some food, but it can also happen more frequently, according to the daily diet, use of medicine, even pregnancy.

Do you want to better understand the causes and triggering factors? Check out the text:


How to identify heartburn?

Heartburn can be punctual or constant and needs to be treated

Heartburn, which is also known as heartburn, is a burning sensation near the chest, which is usually accompanied by a bitter taste in the throat or mouth. The signs can be accentuated right after a meal or when the person is lying or leaning.

It occurs when the contents present in the stomach return to the esophagus – which is a type of tube, between the mouth and the stomach, that carries food.

The esophagus has a valve (sphincter) that releases and blocks the passage of food and gastric juice.

When this valve does not work properly, the acid returns through the esophagus, which can cause irritation of the mucosa and a burning sensation – that and heartburn.

It can be accompanied by a burning sensation and chest pain , general discomfort in the upper abdomen and stomach pain right after eating.

In some cases, the discomfort seems to rise from the stomach to the throat, and some people also experience regurgitation, nausea and coughs.

It generally does not indicate a serious health problem. But, if it is frequent or disrupt the diet, it can be a symptom of other diseases. Therefore, it is important to seek medical help to see if everything is fine with the body.

It is estimated that at least 20 million adult Brazilians suffer from heartburn.

When heartburn happens very often: what can it be?

When the symptom is frequent it can be a sign that there is something wrong with the organism.

See below for details of what can cause heartburn.

Gastric acid reflux

Gastric acid reflux occurs when the contents of the stomach go up into the esophagus.

Some people may have a condition called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), which affects the digestive system. In such cases, the person usually feels a burning sensation in the chest more than twice a week.

Usually, the problem is solved with medications and lifestyle changes like losing weight and lighter meals.

Hiatus hernia

Hiatal hernia occurs when the upper part of the stomach protrudes through the muscle that separates the abdomen and chest – known as the diaphragm. This muscle has a small opening (hiatus) through which the esophagus passes before connecting to the stomach.

In hiatal hernia, the stomach rises through this opening and reaches the chest. Because of this, it can allow food and acid to return to the esophagus, causing heartburn. Medications can usually relieve these symptoms. In some more serious cases, surgery is needed to alleviate the problem.


Smokers are more likely to develop heartburn and gastric acid reflux. The smoking and nicotine weaken the lower esophageal sphincter, which is a muscle between the esophagus and stomach which prevents the return of stomach contents. Therefore, anyone who suffers a lot with heartburn should quit the addiction.


Obese people are more at risk of developing the disease because excess abdominal fat increases the pressure against the stomach. This favors the return of gastric contents to the esophagus and causes heartburn.

Use of some medications

Some medications like aspirin and Ibuprofen, for example, irritate the esophagus and can cause heartburn. Generally, the doctor may ask to change medication, if the symptom persists.

Can constant heartburn be pregnancy?

Heartburn can arise during pregnancy and is a very common condition

Yes. Heartburn is often a symptom during pregnancy. Some women experience discomfort for minutes and there are cases that last up to hours.

It is estimated that between 17% and 45% of pregnant women have already had heartburn at some point during pregnancy.

The problem gets even worse when women already had problems, such as gastritis or reflux, before pregnancy.

Discomfort usually occurs in pregnant women because there is pressure on the lower esophageal sphincter, which separates the esophagus from the stomach. This makes it easier for the acid to pass from the stomach to the esophagus, causing the symptoms.

It can also occur for hormonal reasons. The progesterone for example, cause muscle relaxation, which increases the risk of discomfort.

The good news is that it does not cause any major problems for future moms. But, if the symptom persists or interferes with food and weight gain, it is important to consult with an obstetrician to see if everything is fine with the health of the baby and the woman.

What causes heartburn and burning in the throat?

Heartburn can be accompanied by a burning in the throat when the acid reaches the mouth. It often causes a bitter taste in the mouth . In such cases, it can occur due to a reflux.

The feeling of heartburn or burning is frequent in the first hours after a meal, especially when the person lies down.

The diagnosis occurs, usually after an endoscopy, which examines the digestive system by means of images.

When left untreated, it can develop into more serious problems, such as ulcers in the esophagus, which in the long run can increase the risk of cancer in the digestive system. Therefore, medical monitoring is essential.

What foods cause heartburn?

The consumption of some foods increases the likelihood of heartburn. The diet to avoid the symptom should be focused on eating foods that do not over-stimulate the stomach to produce gastric juice.

In addition, some foods cause the lower esophageal sphincter to relax. And if the muscle is relaxed, it facilitates the passage of gastric contents to the esophagus.

See below which foods to avoid:

  • Coffee and caffeine derivatives such as green tea;
  • Alcoholic beverages;
  • Chocolate;
  • Soft drinks;
  • Meat with excess fat;
  • Inlaid like salami;
  • Fried foods such as French fries;
  • Onion;
  • Citric and acidic foods like orange, lemon, pineapple or tomato;
  • Spicy foods like pepper;
  • Mint.

In addition to avoiding consuming these foods, it is important not to overeat during the meal and not to drink fluids while eating to avoid distending the stomach.

Another tip that helps to avoid the problem is to avoid lying down in the first three hours after eating – this is because the position favors reflux, worsening the symptoms.

It is also important to avoid skipping meals in order not to increase gastric juice in the stomach and whenever possible eat slowly to help digest food better.

In addition, it is worth including in the diet foods such as apples, bananas , yogurt and whole items to reduce stomach acidity and, consequently, heartburn.

Heartburn can be triggered for several reasons, mainly involved with food, but also related to pregnancy and even being overweight.

Therefore, knowing the causes of the problem is important to be able to treat it correctly. The Healthy Minute brings other tips for you to stay healthy!