Can Food or Stress Cause Heartburn?

Everyday events such as eating and stress, especially together, are often responsible for heartburn and other symptoms of acid indigestion.

Food and Heartburn

The stomach acid that causes heartburn is present every time you eat or drink. Yes, it usually stays put, remaining in the stomach where it can help digest your food. But eating too much, eating too quickly, or eating certain foods can cause heartburn and acid indigestion symptoms.

Three Ways Food Causes Heartburn

There are three different ways certain foods can contribute to heartburn symptoms.

High Acidity

The high acidity of some foods gives your body a head start when it comes to the production of stomach acid. That excess acid can lead to heartburn symptoms. Foods whose high acidity can lead to acid indigestion include citrus fruits and juices as well as tomatoes and tomato products.

Stimulating Acid Production

While all food results in the production of stomach acid, some foods and beverages contribute to acid indigestion by stimulating the overproduction of stomach acid. The number one offender is fatty food.

Weakening or Relaxing the LES

Some foods work to weaken the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). This circle of muscle, located at the bottom of the esophagus, keeps food and acids from washing back out of the stomach. Foods that may cause this barrier to weaken or relax include chocolate and caffeinated beverages such as coffee, tea and cola. Drinking alcohol, especially to excess, can also weaken the LES, causing heartburn and other acid indigestion symptoms.

Eating Habits That Cause Heartburn

It’s not just certain foods you have to worry about. How, when and how much you eat can also cause heartburn.


Overeating can cause acid indigestion and its symptoms. There’s a simple equation to keep in mind the next time you sit down to a holiday feast. More food can equal more stomach acid. And, too much stomach acid increases the chances that some will enter your esophagus and cause the symptoms of heartburn.

Eating before Bed

Late night snacking can be another cause of heartburn. In fact, you could eat a modest amount of a low-acid food and still have trouble. That’s because lying down when you sleep can allow even normal amounts of stomach acid to give in to gravity’s pull and wind up in your esophagus.

Eating Improperly

Eating too quickly and not chewing your food completely may also cause the symptoms of heartburn and acid indigestion.

Stress and Heartburn

Stress can cause heartburn directly and indirectly.

Altering Nerve Impulses and Hormones

Your good digestive health depends on the proper functioning of your body’s nerve impulses and hormone signals. Unfortunately, stress can alter these signals. The result can be acid indigestion and other digestive health problems such as diarrhea and stomachaches.

Indirect Causes of Heartburn

Some of the ways stress causes heartburn are indirect. For one thing, there are the behaviors that go hand-in-hand with stressful times, such as eating on the run.

Stress also can encourage some behaviors that are more direct causes of heartburn symptoms. You wouldn’t be the first person, for example, who tried to ease your stress by drinking more, smoking more or by eating an extra helping of fatty comfort food.

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