Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

America Asks About Heartburn & GERD

Font Size

Beyond Food: Other Causes of Heartburn and GERD

Heartburn is that burning sensation in your chest or throat that’s caused by acid rising up from your stomach. It’s a common symptom of the condition called gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD, which is also called acid reflux.

When you talk to your doctor about heartburn, the doctor will first ask you about your diet. That’s because eating certain foods is one of the main causes of heartburn. Coffee (including decaf), soda, tomatoes, alcohol, and chocolate are often heartburn triggers.

Recommended Related to Heartburn/GERD


Laryngospasm is a rare but frightening experience. When it happens, the vocal cords suddenly seize up or close when taking in a breath, blocking the flow of air into the lungs. People with this condition may be awakened from a sound sleep and find themselves momentarily unable to speak or breathe. Though it can be scary while it's happening, laryngospasm typically goes away within a couple of minutes.

Read the Laryngospasm article > >

But eliminating foods that cause heartburn problems may not be enough. Many other factors can also play a role in triggering heartburn and causing GERD.

Besides foods, what are other causes of heartburn?

Other heartburn triggers include:

  • Overeating. Overeating can trigger heartburn. That’s because the stomach remains distended when there are large quantities of food in it. There is a muscle located between your esophagus and your stomach. Your esophagus is a tube that lets food pass from your mouth to your stomach, and the muscle between it and your stomach is called the lower esophageal sphincter or LES. The more your stomach stays distended, the more likely the LES won't close properly. When it doesn’t close, it can’t prevent food and stomach juices from rising back up into the esophagus.
  • Eating habits. Eating too rapidly can be a heartburn trigger. So can eating while lying down or eating too close to bedtime. It helps not to eat during the two or three hours before you go to bed.
  • Smoking. Smoking cigarettes is another potential cause of heartburn and GERD.
  • Hiatal hernia. Your diaphragm is a muscular wall that separates your stomach from your chest. It helps the LES keep stomach acid where it belongs. When the LES and the upper part of the stomach move above the diaphragm you develop a hiatal hernia. The hernia makes acid reflux, which causes heartburn, more likely. You may not even know you have a hiatal hernia. Often, heartburn is the only symptom.
  • Obesity or being overweight. Research suggests that being obese or overweight can be a trigger for heartburn and reflux disease. In one study comparing people with and people without GERD, those who had heartburn problems typically were more overweight than those without GERD.
  • Medication. Common medications taken for other problems, including over-the-counter and prescription drugs, can increase the likelihood of heartburn. That includes medicines used to treat asthma, high blood pressure, heart problems, arthritis or other inflammation, osteoporosis (low bone density), anxiety, insomnia, depression, pain, Parkinson's disease, muscle spasm, or cancer. Also, drugs used for hormone therapy can be a heartburn trigger.
Next Article:

How effective is your heartburn or GERD medicine?