Portrayed in television commercials as the predictable result of greasy dinner fare, heartburn can be triggered by many foods and eating habits. Heartburn is caused by either an irritation of the esophagus or an enlargement of the cardiac sphincter that normally keeps stomach acid away from the esophagus. The enlargement of the cardiac sphincter can be induced by overeating.
When you eat too much at one sitting-or even over the course of one day, you fill your stomach past its normal capacity. As the acid in your stomach breaks down all the food that you’ve eaten, some may slip through the cardiac sphincter because of the pressure of your over-full stomach. Heartburn occurs most often when you are laying down or bending over, since the acid does not have gravity to help keep it down. Heartburn can also be triggered by eating spicy foods or citrus fruits as they often irritate the esophagus.
Heartburn is typically experienced as a burning sensation in your throat. When you have heartburn, you may notice that you have an increased urge to swallow.