Heartburn (Acid Reflux) | Causes, Complications & Treatment Options

What can cause and trigger acid reflux and heartburn?

Many people experience heartburn, but there are no certain causes for this problem. But, some medical conditions and other risk factors may put you at high risk, as follows:

Obesity and overweight

It increases the intra-abdominal pressure, which affects the contraction power of LES and predisposes to reflux. Obesity also raises the risk of GERD.


Like obesity, pregnancy increases intra-abdominal pressure and predisposes to reflux. Also, during pregnancy, the progesterone hormone may relax the LES and cause reflux. Thus, heartburn is common among pregnant women, especially during the third trimester.

Hiatal hernia

It occurs when a part of the stomach passes to the chest (instead of the abdomen) through the diaphragm. It may affect the LES function and causes reflux. Hiatal hernia only causes heartburn when the LES fails to close well.

Certain medications, such as ibuprofen, aspirin, anti-inflammatory drugs, and some antihypertensive medications, may increase the risk of heartburn.

Smoking affects the LES and predisposes to reflux. Stopping smoking reduces the risk of heartburn by about three times more than smokers.

Heartburn is also related to your lifestyle and eating habits, like which food you eat, how much, and when. Some foods and drinks may trigger heartburn, such as:

    • Spicy foods
    • Citrus fruits and juice
    • Tomato and tomato-based products
    • Onion and peppermint
    • High-fat and fried foods
    • Alcohol and coffee
    • Carbonated and caffeinated beverages
    • Chocolate

Also, eating large meals and eating close to bedtime raises the risk of heartburn. Also, lifestyle habits, like high-stress levels and anxiety, increase the risk.

Your doctor should consider these risk factors and triggers during the management of heartburn regardless of its underlying cause.