Be Alert for Heartburn Triggers

August 29, 2014
Though delicious, tomatoes are a heartburn trigger for some.

Though delicious, tomatoes are a heartburn trigger for some.

Heartburn can be inconvenient and at times painful, as many aging parents, spouses, and others already know. In some cases it can develop into gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or other gastrointestinal disturbances that can be more serious.

What is heartburn?

MedicineNet.com defines heartburn as

a sensation of burning in the chest caused by stomach acid backing up into the esophagus (food pipe). The burning is usually in the upper and central part of the chest, just behind the sternum (breast bone).

Heartburn occurs when the valve that cuts off the esophagus from the stomach doesn’t function properly, allowing stomach acid to back up.

What foods contribute to heartburn?

As with many things, different people have different heartburn triggers – foods that can cause heartburn to occur. Some of the foods and drinks that are most commonly associated with heartburn and which aging parents may wish to avoid include:

  • Alcohol. Alcohol intake should be monitored in the best of cases, especially in aging parents and older adults. The fact that it can contribute to heartburn is another reason to imbibe moderately if at all.
  • Acidic juices. Orange juice, grapefruit juice, lemon juice – all of these have wonderfully healthy qualities, but their high acid contents can work against attempts to keep heartburn at bay.
  • Coffee and other highly caffeinated drinks. Coffee, tea, and colas are all potential causes of stomach issues. Colas and other soft drinks also contain carbonation, which is another common heartburn trigger.
  • Tomatoes. Delicious, juicy tomatoes have many healthy attributes, but their acidic content can be very high.
  • Garlic and onions. Many chefs delight in adding garlic and onions to recipes, with tasty and tantalizing results; too much of these ingredients, however, can cause acid stomach in some diners.
  • Cheese. The amount of fat in a cheese can make a big difference in whether it is a heartburn trigger. Fat tends to stay in the stomach longer, meaning there’s less room as new food comes in – making heartburn more likely.
  • Red meat. As with cheese, the amount of fat can make a difference here; leaner is definitely better.
  • Peppermint. A popular after-dinner snack, peppermints surprisingly do have a role in creating heartburn, as they help the muscles between the esophagus and stomach relax, making heartburn more likely.
  • Chocolate. Yummy, delicious chocolate has an after-effect for many people that makes conditions favorable for heartburn.

As mentioned, different aging parents have different triggers. If heartburn occurs with any frequency, sufferers should keep a log of what they eat, how much, and when, and note when heartburn occurs. This can help such ones to identify which foods are likely triggers.

Writer, Craig Butler

Craig Butler has been writing on a wide range of topics for more than fifteen years. As the National Communications Director for the Cooley's Anemia Foundation, Craig regularly writes on a range of health and medical topics. Among the many projects he has written for the Foundation is the Cooley's Anemia Storybook, a collection of original short stories for children with the blood disorder Cooley's Anemia. His freelance work has ranged from reviewing moves and CDs to creating entertainment-related stories about baldness, to creating text for comic strips. Craig looks forward to having a dialogue with you about senior care and issues of concern.

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