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  Can Chocolate Cause Acid Reflux?

Nearly 70 million Americans suffer from heartburn every year, making it the most common problem ailing people today. This is nothing but a condition where you experience chest pain along with pain in the upper abdomen, which is essentially caused by the presence of stomach acid in the esophagus. This is largely due to the moving back of stomach acids into the esophagus. It is believed that certain foods cause the lower esophageal sphincter to remain open, which allows the juices from the stomach to move back into the esophagus and often right up to the throat. This condition is called acid reflux and is common after the eating of certain kinds of foods.

Is chocolate responsible for cases of acid reflux?Causes of reflux 

As mentioned earlier, acid reflux is usually caused due to the malfunctioning of the lower esophageal sphincter. Food that we eat usually enters the stomach through the esophagus and on entering there, they are sealed within the stomach walls by the lower esophageal sphincter. However, when the lower esophageal sphincter does not close properly, the digested foods reenter the esophagus along with the acids found in the stomach. This reflux of the stomach juices usually go right up to the mouth, which in turn leads to burning of the lining of the esophagus.  

Common triggers that cause reflux 

It is believed that eating certain kinds of food, stress and the following of a certain lifestyle are the most common triggers of acid reflux. Foods that cause heartburn include tomato, caffeine, fatty foods or fried foods, spicy foods, fatty dairy products, citrus fruits and juices, mint, cream sauces and chocolate. In addition, other factors like consumption of alcohol, smoking, obesity, eating large meals, wearing tight clothes, exercising or lying down immediately after eating are also common triggers of heartburn or reflux of acid.  

Reasons why certain foods are triggers 

Foods have the ability to affect the normal functioning of the lower esophageal sphincter, which is the main reason why there is an increased acid reflux after consuming these foods. For instance, chocolate is known to contain theobromine, which is a compound usually found in cocoa and caffeine plants, including tea and coffee. This compound is known to loosen and relax the muscles governing the lower esophageal sphincter.  

Relaxation of the lower esophageal sphincter muscles causes it to remain open even after food enters the stomach. This in turn causes the reflux of acid into the esophagus, right up to the lungs and mouth. Fatty foods, on the other hand, slow the rate of digestion, which again is the reason why acids enter the esophagus. 

Treatment for reflux 

Treatment of this problem usually involves consuming antacids or using other home or over-the-counter remedies that help cure heartburn. It is important to note that most over-the-counter remedies are useful in countering heartburn caused due to chocolate. However, it is important to ensure that you consume the medication as prescribed by your pharmacist. When the problem is severe, consulting your physician and getting medications as prescribed will help to treat it the right way.   

Prevention of reflux 

Most people believe that where chocolates are the reason for acid reflux, avoiding the food item in its entirety will automatically reduce the reflux of acid into the esophagus and prevent the problem. However, experts believe that this is not true. Tests conducted in the laboratories have shown that merely stopping the intake of a reflux causing trigger does not automatically reduce the problem. However, where the food item, in this case chocolate, is taken with proper medication, the chances of your problem reducing over a period of time are definitely high.  

Still, it is important that you take adequate steps to ensure that other reflux causing factors are also brought under control. Maintaining a record of your episodes along with what you feel acted as a trigger to cause it will also help in preventing it in the long run. Similarly, taking precautions like not drinking or smoking and avoiding caffeine will also prove beneficial. 

It is important to remember that although chocolate is known to cause acid reflux in some people, avoiding it is often more difficult than it sounds. Under these circumstances, taking medicines to overcome the problem before consuming chocolate is the best way to avoid the discomfort.