Why Does Chocolate Give Heartburn and Acid Reflux?

Who doesn’t love chocolate? The melted taste of sweetness and cocoa mixed with caffeine makes it too delicious as if it keeps on attracting more. Chocolate consumption returns to 400 AD and remains the number one gift item. But did anyone ever think that cocoa would be the biggest attraction for heartburn and acid reflux, too?

The most beloved treat is best known for healing sadness by providing a surge of serotonin. Still, cocoa causes intestinal cells to release a surge of serotonin, which causes gases to rise.

People will be surprised to know that chocolate, along with onion, fried food, and garlic, is also considered a common food that triggers acid reflux.
The melted indulgence of sweet and cocoa can often create a stressed body reaction, causing heartburn or acid reflux, a sad reality for people with digestion problems.

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What is Acid Reflux?

Acid Reflux also known as gastroesophageal reflux occurs when the stomach acid backflows to esophagus, causing a burning sensation to the stomach and leaving a sour taste and strong uneasy burps, it is often considered casual even though persistent acid reflux can be due to serious effects. This burning sensation is regarded as heartburn, a discomfort in the upper belly or chest.

1. Components of Chocolate

The root cause of chocolate-induced acid reflux lies in the components of chocolate, some people ought to be allergic to any one particular component which can be resolved by checking components before consuming chocolate, but in certain cases, the mechanism of LES induces the acid reflux followed by heartburn.

  • Fat Content: Chocolate contains high sugar, even though dark chocolate often promises lesser sugar content. Yet the production frequently indulges in high-fat content, which, when ingested into the stomach, is digested at a slower rate, giving rise to acidity.
  • Caffeine and Theobromine: Caffeine has contributed various positive aspects to the human body. Yet when it combines with theobromine, the gut relaxes the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), whose function is to prevent acid from backflowing into the stomach and hence causing acid reflux.
  • Polyphenols: Polyphenols have antioxidant properties, too. The human stomach digests the fermented polyphenols. Dark chocolates contain rich polyphenol content. They have shown positive results for providing cardioprotective effects.
  • Presence of Cocoa Powder: Cocoa powder is acidic, releasing serotonin and relaxing the LES.
  • Methylxanthines: Compounds that irritate LES and irritate the esophageal lining. Ironically, the highest content of these is found in dark chocolates.

1.1. Types of chocolate and their effects on heartburn

  • Dark chocolate: This has a high cocoa content, and as already mentioned, a higher percentage of cocoa reduces the fear factor for acid reflux.
  • Milk chocolate: Milk chocolate and white chocolate have higher fat percentages and vanilla content, which weakens LES function and worsens acid reflux, which causes heartburn.
  • Chocolate with fillings: Any kind of filling with a high sugar content or caramelized chocolate will also severely affect LES.

1.2. Lower Esophageal Sphincter Anatomy

The Lower Esophageal Sphincter (LES) is an involuntary circular muscle that forms a bundle at the end of the esophagus (a tube that links the mouth to the stomach). The LES is known as the gastroesophageal junction and is sometimes referred to as the cardiac sphincter.

As mentioned, its function prevents acid and food from returning to the throat via the stomach. It remains closed at all times except during food gulps. Through peristaltic movements, it is moved further down for proper digestion. When anyone eats chocolate, it surges an overgrowth gas production for (Small Intestinal Bacterial Growth) SIBO people, which puts pressure on LES and weakens it. Added effects on caffeine, too, confirmed the weakening effects on LES. Further evaluation determined the impact of chocolate on the known ability of gastric alkalinization or bethanechol to increase LES tone.

Several other factors may relax the LES, causing acid reflux or heartburns like:
Triggering food substances: People with GERD must avoid trigger foods, and normal people should also avoid high-fat foods. Reducing high-fat food intake can help protect the LES. Foods like coffee, peppermint, spearmint, sugar, and onions can damage the LES. To maintain an overall healthy lifestyle, we must avoid these foods and seek medical advice if needed.
Overeating: Daily eating or carrying an above-normal weight puts extra pressure on the LES. As a result, the LES tends to gradually lose its shape and strength, allowing stomach acid to flow upwards and causing heartburn.
Smoking is the most dangerous habit, increasing toxins and chemicals in the human body. It exposes the esophagus to these toxins, which damage and weaken LES membranes. Smoking also raises the acidity of stomach fluids, which impacts LES more than usual, causing heartburn.
• Alcohol:
alcohol intake relaxes the LES muscles, which allows the stomach acid to flow upwards. This can damage the LES gradually.
• Harsh Medication:
Some medications, such as sleeping pills, blood pressure medications, sedatives, antibiotics, antidepressants, iron and potassium supplements, and proton pump inhibitors, can cause acid reflux by relaxing the LES.

lower esophageal sphincter

1.3. What is Serotonin?

Serotonin is a chemical messenger that functions as a neurotransmitter and hormone. It is produced from the amino acid tryptophan and is mostly found in the digestive tract. A decreased amount can cause depression, so it is the feel-good hormone. Yet when chocolate is ingested, overproduction causes the LES to relax, causing acid reflux.

1.4. Controlling Mindful Cravings

Now, chocolate lovers, as disappointing as it sounds, once anyone figures out the culprit behind their acid reflux is chocolate, there are a few things that will help to control these risks:
a) Choosing meals that are not acidic before and after consuming chocolates.
b) opt for dark chocolates with cocoa content above 70% because they have fewer fats.
c) Consume chocolates in smaller portions and give at least 2-3 hours gap before consuming again due to cravings.
d) Avoid eating chocolate before bedtime strictly; lying down might increase acid reflux.
e) Maintain dietary habits and routines and do not experiment or introduce new food suddenly.
f) If you have persistent heartburn, always consult the doctor and maintain a regime that does not include chocolates if necessary. If untreated, chronic heartburn may lead to GERD, which in turn may cause severe conditions, including esophagitis, esophageal strictures, or Barrett’s esophagus.

2. Foods that alleviate acid reflux:

  • Ginger is the best-known natural remedy for acid reflux, bloating, constipation, inflammation, and other conditions. It has anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Green Veggies: Boiling green vegetables the old-fashioned way helps with acid reflux and maintains a consistent balance of stomach fluids.
  • Oatmeal: A great yummy breakfast that can be prepared in various healthy ways to reduce acid reflux and add flavour to the tongue.
  • Whole grains: No new news; entire grains have been long-withstanding food that absorbs excess stomach acid.
  • Low-fat dairy products: Products like yogurt with no added sweeteners, mill, or cheese provide good bacteria to the stomach’s gut, reducing inflammation and acid reflux.

Check out the reason behind indigestion caused by acidic foods: Why Do Acidic Foods Cause Heartburn? – 9 Facts to Know

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Image source – pixabay

2.1. Treatment for heartburn

Apart from lifestyle changes, dietary modifications, and avoiding tobacco products and alcohol consumption, there are a few other things that help cure heartburn.

Over-the-counter medications like antacids, H2 blockers, and Proton Pump Inhibitors help cure light heartburn. Still, in severe cases, prescription medications with strong doses of H2 blockers and PPi pump-induced medicines are highly recommended.
Consuming probiotics can help, too; other than that, aloe vera juice naturally cures heartburn.

Pepcid contains calcium carbonate and H2 blockers, too; it is doctor-advised OTC medicine.

Many doctors strictly advise against chocolates in these cases, but every reactional reflux will be different; hence, consuming chocolates in smaller quantities while figuring out the severity of the human body is the biggest task, though acid refluxes are likely to be cured, testing against limits is strictly condemned and prohibited.

If you want to know more about chocolates, then check out Chocolate Allergy Symptoms: 9 Shocking Symptoms

At The End

Even though it is the most loved snack, chocolate can be prone to overpowering side effects that likely cause harm and on a greater level than the good craving. To avoid making heartburn an unwanted friend, avoiding chocolate tends to be the best option, but consuming it after being well aware and learning about the precautions can help in the long term to get over any cravings. In recent days, there are millions of alternatives that prove to be healthier and have little to no side effect expectancy.

It must be noted that every human body is different and likely to react differently. Therefore, it cannot be generalized easily. However, understanding the science behind the problem and asking for help at the right moment will help.

So, “Does chocolate cause acid reflux and heartburn for people?” The answer is yes. It causes acid reflux and heartburn for certain people, and the how is explained above.

Above all, maintaining a good diet and consulting a doctor should always be everyone’s priority.

Last Updated on by Isha_Jash



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