Reflux Triggers You Should Know

More than 60 million people, in the U.S. alone, experience heartburn at least once a month.  For many with Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease or GERD, heartburn is a constant struggle. Some of the obvious triggers for heartburn are things like a large holiday meal, French fries and a chili dog washed down with a soda or a big slice of chocolate cake after a large meal. Other triggers are not so obvious and if you suffer from frequent heartburn it is imperative you figure out what your triggers are. Reflux can lead to cancer. We wanted to provide you a list of some of the overlooked causes of heartburn and GERD.


In recent years, twin studies have suggested that 30% to 45% of your risk for GERD is dependent on genetic factors. Experts haven’t determined the genetic link but think it could be due to inherited physical traits, like abnormalities in stomach function or lower esophageal sphincter or even possible hypersensitivity to stomach acids.


This gives you yet another reason to quit the habit.  Smoking has been shown to make acid reflux disease worse by weakening the lower esophageal sphincter muscle that prevents stomach acids from refluxing up into the esophagus. Smoking also cuts down on saliva production. Saliva is generally what helps flush stomach acids out of the esophagus.  Saliva contains bicarbonate, which is also a natural acid-reducer.  So kick the smoking habit to help control the pain of reflux.


Alcohol effects Acid reflux | GERD | HearburnAlcohol also acts to relax the lower esophageal sphincter making it difficult for it to do it’s job and keep stomach acids where they belong.

Excess weight

Several studies have now confirmed that individuals with higher BMI (Body Mass Index) scores are more likely to experience heartburn and have acid reflux disease.  The extra weight around the middle adds pressure to the Lower Esophageal Sphincter (LES) making it harder for it to perform as intended – to keep stomach acids in the stomach.  Poor diet, lack of exercise and chemicals excreted by the fat cells are all cited as possible reasons the extra weight triggers heartburn.

Some Medications

medications effect acid reflux | heartburn | GERDMany common medications when used regularly can trigger heartburn.  Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, often called NSAIDs, like Ibuprofen or Naxproxen are frequent culprits for heartburn. Prescription medications including bronchodilators like albuterol used for asthma and COPD, calcium channel blockers, antibiotics, osteoporosis drugs and some sedatives can also be triggering your heartburn. Definitely consult your doctor if you think your medication is causing or increasing your heartburn. It’s important that you do not stop taking your prescribed medication(s) without first consulting with the prescribing doctor.

Fish oil supplements

Even though fish oil (contains good omega-3 fatty acids) has been touted as a natural way to manage heart disease and a host of other conditions, it is also found to be a trigger for heartburn in some. The fish isn’t typically the problem. Fish itself is a low fat, high protein food that is excellent for heartburn sufferers.  It’s the oil that appears responsible for the unpleasant side effect of heartburn.


Pepperming effects Acid Reflux | GERD | HeartburnPeppermint is both good and bad when it comes to the stomach. Peppermint is often used to settle an upset stomach. The problem is that peppermint can cause problems with those who suffer from GERD.

 The soothing and numbing from the menthol in the peppermint that helps with upset stomach in some, tends to also relax the lower esophageal sphincter, which can cause stomach acids to drift up the esophagus more easily, bring on heartburn in others.


It appears, from a study in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research, that stressed people may be more aware of heartburn symptoms or the neurological effects of stress might ratchet up pain receptors in the esophagus. Stress does seem to trigger heartburn but does not seem to cause an increase in stomach acid production. It certainly makes you more aware of the pain of reflux.  So to tone down your awareness of your heartburn pain, try to remove some stress from your daily routine.

Bottom Line

Bottom line if you have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), is to find out what triggers your heartburn. A good way to do this is by keeping a daily journal and noting your activities prior to your reflux symptoms. You may find the trigger is beyond your control – like genetics. However, there are many common triggers that are easily removed through lifestyle changes.  In addition to lifestyle modifications in your diet, you can also make some simple changes like not eating 2-3 hours before bedtime and when you do go to sleep, you can elevate the head of your bed.  This can easily be accomplished with Gravity1st™ Elevated Sleep Systems mattress.