What Causes Heartburn?

Foods that trigger heartburn

Controlling your heartburn triggers can help reduce how often you experience heartburn, but everyone’s triggers may be different. There are many reasons for heartburn, but it is often linked to the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) relaxing or weakening and letting acid escape from the stomach into the esophagus. Common causes of heartburn include certain types of foods, medications, and some lifestyle choices.

Common Triggers That Cause Heartburn

Increased pressure on your abdomen

Being overweight, obese, or pregnant; eating heavy meals; or wearing certain clothing that might be too tight around your abdomen may cause excess pressure.

Certain types of medication

Never stop taking any medication prescribed or recommended by your doctor without talking to the doctor first.

Smoking or inhaling secondhand smoke

Smoking weakens the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) and can also contribute to other digestive conditions, as well as cause cancer.

Greasy, spicy, or fatty foods

Learn more about specific foods that trigger heartburn and how to help manage your diet.

Caffeinated beverages

Coffee, caffeinated teas, sodas, and energy drinks are common heartburn triggers.


Red wine is worse than white wine as a heartburn trigger, though both increase stomach acid production.

Things That Can Make Heartburn Worse

Acidic foods

Watch out for other heartburn triggers like citrus fruits and juices, tomatoes, and tomato sauces.

Foods that increase stomach acid

Sugary, heavy, greasy, and fatty foods are harder to digest, which means your stomach needs to make more acid to break them down.

Lying down

Lying in a horizontal position can make it easier for acid to creep up out of your stomach into your esophagus. Eating too close to bedtime can also trigger heartburn if your body is still digesting a lot of food when you lie down.


Stress can make heartburn worse, as well as make you reach for triggers like cigarettes, alcohol, or greasy comfort food.

Making changes to your lifestyle and diet can make a big difference in managing heartburn. Notice which things you suspect may be causing your heartburn. You may even want to keep a heartburn diary for a while. The goal is to get better at making choices, not to totally eliminate triggers.

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