Does Chocolate Cause Heartburn?

Do you love chocolate, coffee, and other caffeinated foods or beverages? If you have heartburn, you might want to think twice before enjoying these treats. Certain foods, especially those containing caffeine, can trigger or worsen heartburn symptoms. When that happens, you may experience a burning sensation in the chest. This condition may also cause a sour taste in the mouth, as well as other symptoms like bad breath, bloating, or hiccups, explains the UK's National Health Service (NHS).

Heartburn occurs when stomach acid flows back into the esophagus. It can last anywhere from a few minutes to several hours, causing digestive discomfort. Symptoms of heartburn tend to kick in after eating. Stress, cigarette smoking, and other lifestyle factors may play a role, too. Luckily, you can prevent heartburn by making small changes to your routine. For starters, it's important to avoid or limit the foods that trigger this problem. If possible, try to have dinner at least three or four hours before bedtime, suggests the NHS. Cut back on alcohol and eat smaller meals throughout the day.

So, does chocolate cause heartburn? Should you give up this treat or simply eat less of it? The answer depends on several factors, including your overall diet. Here's what you should know about the link between chocolate, heartburn, and acid reflux

Chocolate, a potential trigger for heartburn

Most health experts advise against eating chocolate if you have heartburn or acid reflux. This beloved dessert is high in fat and caffeine, both of which can trigger heartburn symptoms. Fat is difficult to digest, while caffeine relaxes the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), notes The Gastro Clinic. The latter ingredient also increases the production of "feel-good" hormones, causing the LES to relax even further. These processes can lead to acid reflux and heartburn.

Medical News Today explains that chocolate also contains a natural substance called methylxanthine. This compound relaxes the muscles around your airways and other organs, as well as the LES. Therefore, it may cause heartburn in some people. But not everyone will experience these issues after eating chocolate. Gastroenterologist Lauren Gerson told Stanford University that there's not enough evidence to confirm that chocolate, coffee, red wine, or citrus fruits can worsen heartburn. Moreover, eliminating them from your diet won't necessarily prevent this condition.

So far, only two lifestyle changes have been proven effective for heartburn. Stanford University recommends losing excess weight and elevating the head of your bed. Cutting out chocolate may help to some extent, but it won't eliminate the root cause of your problem. Dr. Gerson says that medication alone can alleviate heartburn symptoms in most individuals. "The main reason they probably have heartburn is that their sphincter muscle is relaxing too much, and taking the medicine will decrease the amount of acid that's going into their esophagus," she explained.