If you’ve ever experienced heartburn and were left stumped as to what the cause was, perhaps you should turn your gaze toward the bottom of your cup – your coffee cup, that is.
Experts from the University of California, Los Angeles, are suggesting that alcohol and caffeinated beverages can have a direct effect on heartburn. This is because a ring of muscle located between the stomach and esophagus called the “lower esophageal sphincter” can be temporarily affected by alcohol and caffeine in some people.
As reported by NPR, UCLA gastroenterologist Kevin Ghassemi, explained that this muscle is meant to be closed at all times except for when food is passing into the esophagus. But because alcohol relaxes it, it creates an opening. And when this happens, he says, stomach acid can come back up into the esophagus, which is reflux – which is what causes the burning sensation we experience with heartburn.
Furthermore, Ghassemi makes the link to caffeine as well saying, “The caffeine that’s in coffee or other caffeinated beverages also will relax the sphincter muscle.”
If you’re one of the lucky few who doesn’t experience heartburn after consuming caffeine or alcohol, consider yourself normal. Ghassemi points out that some people are naturally predisposed due to a “weak or faulty sphincter muscle.” This, he says, can often be influenced by being overweight or obese because it increases the risk.
Previous studies have suggested that spicy and acidic foods can be a contributing factor to conditions like acid reflux and heartburn. But a study by gastroenterologist Karthik Ravi of the Mayo Clinic, would suggest otherwise.
According to Ravi’s research, people are afraid of foods like citrus and tomato sauce because they fear their acidity may be problematic. But this fear is unfounded, he says, suggesting that there’s actually little evidence proving that these foods actually increase acid secretion.
So what’s a person to draw from these studies? Ravi suggests focusing more on how you eat rather than what you eat. For instance, if you’re craving a burger, have one, but keep it within a reasonable portion size and only eat a few fries rather than opting for a double whopper and super size fry. Doing so, he says, will not only help control reflux symptoms, but also establish mindful eating practices in your everyday diet.
In addition to eating mindfully, experts on heartburn and acid reflux recommend avoiding foods and beverages that you know to be personally troublesome. And if one of those items happens to be your morning cup of coffee or nightly glass of wine, perhaps you should find another way to fuel up and wind down, for your heart’s sake.