Can Chocolate Cause Heartburn? Read This Before Next Bite

Chocolate is one of the best sweets of all time, and whether you are a chocolate lover or not, it is guaranteed to elevate your mood with just one bite. Do you know why this happens? 

It’s because chocolate causes the release of a happiness hormone i.e, serotonin, in your body. This chemical instantly improves everyone’s mood, but the question is, have you started experiencing discomforting heartburn symptoms right after eating this comfort snack?

 Keep reading this article to learn how chocolate can cause this symptom and what you can do to prevent it.

Can Chocolate Cause Heartburn?

In simple words, “yes” chocolate can most certainly cause heartburn symptoms. You must be shocked after hearing that something as luscious as chocolate can trigger uncomfortable symptoms in your body, but unfortunately, several scientific studies support this claim.

Heartburn is one of the most common acid reflux symptoms, and it feels like a burning sensation in your chest. 

Fact: Chronic acid reflux is known as gastroesophageal reflux disease

Read also: Does Decaf Coffee Cause Heartburn?

Cocoa Powder Causes Your Lower Oesophageal Sphincter To Relax

In case you don’t know, the lower oesophageal sphincter is a ring muscle connecting your lower esophagus and stomach. It’s only supposed to open and close so that food substances can enter your stomach.

Cocoa powder, the primary ingredient in chocolate, can cause heartburn because it increases the acid exposure in your food pipe. This reduces the ability of the lower esophageal sphincter to function correctly, and it starts relaxing at the wrong times, allowing stomach acids to enter your esophagus and causing symptoms of acid reflux.

Chocolate Contains Trigger Substances

Besides cocoa powder, chocolate contains several other trigger substances, such as caffeine, theobromine, and serotonin.

Caffeine triggers acid reflux and heartburn because it increases the acidity of secretions in your stomach, and much like cocoa powder, it also makes your LES relax at the wrong times. Caffeine is considered so much of a trigger substance that GERD patients are advised to abstain from all caffeinated beverages, even a simple cup of coffee.

Chocolate also contains chemicals such as theobromine and serotonin. Serotonin is mainly made up of amino acids, so the surge of these chemicals in your body increases acid levels, making it one of the heartburn triggers.

Chocolate Is One Of The High-fat Foods

Fatty foods can also trigger heartburn because they prevent the LES from fully tightening. Since chocolate contains cocoa butter, which is high in saturated fat, chocolate also ranks as a high-fat food. Besides that, the stearic acid in chocolate contributes to ⅓ of its fat. This makes the digestive process much slower, and stomach contents can catch bacteria and add to stomach acids.

Fact: did you know that a single oz of milk chocolate contains about 8g fat?

The Counterargument From Dr. Lauren Gerson

Even with all the reasons listed above, a counterargument is presented by Dr. Lauren Gerson at Stanford University that suggests otherwise. She says that chocolate is rarely a trigger in GERD patients, and there is not enough evidence that might prove that certain foods worsen reflux heartburn. 

You can learn more about this research directly from Stanford’s website.

Chocolate, wine, and spicy foods may be OK for heartburn

Read also: Best Wine For Acid Reflux – Ultimate Guide For 2023

How To Eat Chocolate Without Triggering Heartburn?

girl taking a bite on a pice of chocolate

Gerd already requires you to make several dietary changes in your daily life, and adding chocolate to that list can be very frustrating. You’d be happy to learn that we have some good news for you. You can eat chocolate with some precautions if you don’t wish to restrain it forever. 

You must remember that chocolate is in no way safe for acid reflux patients, but with these precautions, it can be less dangerous.

Eat In Small Quantities 

The best way to eat anything with GERD is to divide it into small portions so that stomach contents won’t reflux, and the same strategy applies to chocolate.

Suppose you wish to eat chocolate despite the possible risk. In that case, eating it in moderation rather than in large quantities is advised so that your digestive system can process the previous dose before you take another.

Chocolate doesn’t necessarily cause heartburn in all GERD patients since there is no definite way to know your body’s function. You should keep a food diary and record the foods that noticeably trigger your heartburn; if chocolate makes a list, you should only take precautions.

Tip: baking soda and water can reduce heartburn immediately

Lean Towards Eating Dark Chocolate.

Instead of eating milk chocolate or white chocolate high in fat, it would be a good idea to compromise and switch to dark chocolate. Now, you may be wondering how dark chocolate is safer.

Dark chocolate is a type of chocolate that doesn’t contain high-fat content, which essentially decreases the strain on the sphincter muscle.

You can choose one with unsweetened cocoa powder since it’s the main trigger ingredient. Besides that, you eat about ⅛ tablespoon of baking soda with it. The effects will most likely be prevented.

Fact: Dark chocolate is also good because it releases a chemical named cocoa polyphenols in your body that can reduce GERD/heartburn-induced tension and elevate your mood.

Precautions To Take While Eating Chocolate With Acid Reflux

  1. After eating chocolate, you should wait at least 3 hours before lying down.
  2. Don’t eat while having a bad acid reflux episode; it’ll only worsen the symptoms.
  3. Avoid binge eating and rather eat in moderation. 
  4. Don’t eat chocolate with other trigger substances.

Examples Of Those Trigger Foods 

  • Fatty foods and greasy foods such as french fries
  • Spicy foods, e.g. chili peppers
  • Citrus fruits, even in the form of orange juice
  • Acidic foods and dairy products such as ice cream
  • Caffeinated beverages, alcoholic beverages, soft drinks

Frequently Asked Question

Q- Does chocolate increase acid levels in your body?

A- chocolate contains high serotonin levels and considering that serotonin is made of amino acids, its surge in your body can most certainly cause acid levels to rise.

Q- Can chocolate cause heartburn at night? 

A- chocolate is a trigger substance, and eating it before lying down will only mean an uncomfortable night of sleep with disturbing intervals. It is because your position will not be supported by gravity, and acids can travel up your digestive tract, causing heartburn all night.

Q- Does chocolate cause heartburn because it contains sugar?

A- sugar alone or sugar paired with reflux-friendly foods such as jams or syrups does not trigger heartburn. This means that chocolate’s other ingredients and properties are responsible for its effects. However, if sugar is eaten with other trigger substances, it can cause symptoms.

Q- Can chocolate cause other reflux symptoms besides heartburn? 

A- chocolate causes your lower esophageal sphincter to relax at the wrong times, allowing your stomach acids to enter the food pipe. This malfunction can make you experience all reflux symptoms, from a burning sensation and chest pain to dysphagia.

Read also: Can GERD Cause Shoulder Pain?

Can Chocolate Cause Heartburn Summary

Now that you know that chocolate can cause heartburn take the necessary precautions before eating it.

Moreover, It is crucial to understand that it is not normal to experience heartburn or other discomforting symptoms unless there is an underlying disease behind it. If you or one of your friends are experiencing unusual symptoms, you should give it close attention and seek medical advice.

We hope this article answers your question. If you have any further queries, feel free to contact us.

Don’t forget to share this with your friends who might be wondering the same thing.