Heartburn: Spot Your Personal Triggers

Some foods and habits commonly trigger heartburn, while others affect only certain people.

It is often called reflux by doctors. It's probably also known as heartburn. No matter the name, it can cause discomfort. Heartburn is a burning sensation in the chest that travels up to the throat and an acidic or bitter taste that follows.

Most people have experienced heartburn once in their lives. This could happen after eating too much pie and turkey, or while sitting around watching football. About 20% of Americans experience reflux at least once a week. Some, who have severe, persistent heartburn, may have a more serious condition called gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD -- which can contribute to a wide range of other health problems, including a precancerous condition called Barrett's esophagus.

Knowing your triggers is key to managing heartburn. Although certain foods and lifestyle choices can trigger heartburn, not all of them will be the same for everyone. A person suffering from heartburn may be able to eat citrus fruits, but another will feel miserable after drinking a large glass of orange juice.

These are the three best ways to identify your heartburn triggers.

1. These are the top causes of heartburn.

Large meals, late eating, and consumption of fatty foods are some of the top triggers. Charlene Prather MD is a St. Louis University School of Medicine associate professor of medicine. These are the "top three" causes of heartburn. Chocolate. Unfortunately, this one is not as consistent and will cause heartburn. Caffeinated and coffee. Prather says that some people are sensitive to caffeine and coffee. Citrus products such as oranges, orange juice, and lemonade. Prather says that caffeine can cause reflux. However, the acidity of citrus mimics this feeling. Garlic, onion, and other spicy food. Tomatoes. Prather says that they are usually more problematic when they are cooked than when raw. But both can lead to heartburn. Alcohol. Red wine, which is known to cause heartburn in some individuals, can trigger all types of alcohol. 2. To track heartburn triggers, keep a food journal. Robert Sandler MD is chief of division of gastroenterology at University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. A board member of National Heartburn Alliance, he is also. Write down anything that you believe has caused your acid reflux.

A food log can be helpful in helping your doctor identify the cause of your symptoms. Be sure to verify that the information you are writing is not reflux. People mistakenly believe that reflux is caused by other symptoms, such as stomach issues or problems in their esophagus.

Sandler states that "there are a number of functional disorders within the GI tract." He also said, "Reflux is only one part of this group, but there's many others." The typical sign of reflux is a burning or warm sensation at the throat. You may have something other than reflux if that is not the case.

Keep track of the triggers by writing down how they feel, what foods were eaten and what activities you performed before.

It is important to note when your symptoms of heartburn occur. Prather says that symptoms from other gastrointestinal disorders, such as irritable bowel syndrome or GERD, don't always occur right after you eat. However, heartburn usually occurs within one hour of eating the trigger food.

3. How to Avoid Heartburn by Using 'Clean Slate Dining' It's hard to know if the sauce was bad or the wine. Prather says you can't. Prather says that the best way to find your triggers is by starting with a blank slate.

According to her, "You should eliminate any foods that cause heartburn. Then, add them all back, one by one to see which ones are most problematic."

A heartburn-inducing food like chocolate can be minimized by eating smaller portions and not overeating. Prather says that you may be fine eating a large breakfast meal, but feel miserable after dinner if your meals are too big. Don't do vigorous exercise or lay down for more than a few hours after you eat. Go for a stroll instead. It will empty your stomach more quickly.

Remember, it's not necessary to live with your pain. Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications can be used to treat occasional symptoms of heartburn. Chronic, severe heartburn should be reported to your doctor.

Sandler says that heartburn can be a common symptom people have to deal with. People with diabetes can't live without insulin and those with high blood pressure cannot go without medications. Some people have heartburn as a chronic condition that must be managed.