What is stomach acid?
The stomach produces stomach acid to help protect us against bacteria parasites. It aids in helping with the absorption of iron, calcium and magnesium. When the acid backs up into the esophagus it can burn and cause heartburn or gastroesophageal reflux disease.
Why does the acid back up into the esophagus?
A muscle called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) at the bottom of the esophagus normally prevents foods and acid from backing up. This muscle acts like a tight drawstring to close off the opening between the esophagus and stomach when you are not eating. Heartburn happens when the lower esophageal sphincter does not close all the way or relaxes inappropriately.
Why doesn’t the lower esophageal sphincter close all the way?
Do spicy foods cause heartburn?
Many substances directly irritate the lining of the esophagus and can contribute to heartburn. Spicy foods, citrus fruits and juices, tomatoes and tomato sauces, cigarettes, carbonated drinks and late night meals can also increase the production of stomach acid and decrease the LES pressure, leading to heartburn.