Heartburn is the most common symptom of acid reflux and affects so many millions of people in the world.
This is mainly due to diet and lifestyle. In fact, there are many foods, as well as wrong lifestyle habits, that are able to cause the disease.
There are then other factors able to trigger the symptoms, in people who are predisposed or already have the disease but have been without symptoms until now.
One of the most frequently asked questions is: does chocolate cause heartburn?
This is a topic that deserves great attention and, to be 100% honest, a solid clarification.
If you browse the web looking for information about the relationships between chocolate and acid reflux, the most frequent finding is that chocolate is bad for people who suffer from reflux.
This can apply to both the people who already have the disease and healthy subjects.
However, as often happens with every aspect of gastroesophageal reflux disease, things are not so easy.
Moreover, there also are some “controversial” considerations to report and to understand.
We’ll try to answer this question in the best possible way, by analyzing all the aspects that may have a role in the topic.
Does Chocolate Cause Heartburn? A Frequently Asked Question
Let’s start with the most common consideration.
Chocolate is included in the list of heartburn triggers.
This means that:
- If you suffer from acid reflux, you’re advised not to eat chocolate to prevent heartburn symptom
- If you are not suffering from acid reflux, you still have to consider that the excessive consumption of chocolate can lead to similar symptoms
To summarize, we can say that chocolate causes heartburn just because it promotes acid reflux.
The result is no different than what happens with any other cause of acid reflux.
Before to analyze specific mechanisms for the chocolate to determine reflux, we want to point out that there are some other conditions that contribute to reflux.
- Weight gain
- Formation of gas
When the above-listed conditions appear, acid reflux can be more likely to occur.
This because of the increased pressure in the abdomen, which weakens the closure of the lower esophageal sphincter.
Does chocolate help with acid reflux?
Eating chocolate is not a way to help to get rid of heartburn and reflux.
However, according to some studies, chocolate should not be blamed for making things worse.
Not even for causing and/or promoting reflux.
This research has been published in 2006, by Lauren Gerson, MD, from Stanford University.
According to these findings, something really interesting has been discovered (we quote the conclusion as it’s reported in the publication).
And this has been observed although some foods, just like chocolate, are known to lower the pressure of LES.
To keep things simple, we can say that (according to this study) the direct action of chocolate on LES is not a key factor to promote reflux.
And heartburn as a direct consequence.
Does chocolate have acid?
This is a topic that needs some clarification.
First of all, let’s say that cocoa powder is acidic.
This means that chocolate intake can predispose to more serious symptoms when reflux occurs.
In other words, chocolate can promote reflux, as many other causes and factors.
When reflux occurs, chocolate can be responsible for more serious effects (increased irritation) because of the increased acidity of stomach content.
But, as always, personal experience is essential to this end.
Some people report more symptoms than others.
That’s why you must listen to your organism, and act accordingly.
How does chocolate cause heartburn?
The reason why chocolate causes heartburn is closely related to the promoting action it exerts on acid reflux.
To keep things simple, you have to imagine what follows:
- Chocolate, like many other fat-rich foods, acts on the LES (lower esophageal sphincter)
- By doing so, the LES is more relaxed
- A more relaxed LES allows stomach content to flow back in the esophagus
- This causes heartburn
In addition, we also have to remember that chocolate contains serotonin.
This hormone can relax the lower esophageal sphincter in turn.
That’s why there’s a double action on the LES.
This leads to reflux, and as direct consequence heartburn as well.
Important note: many people under stress eat more chocolate, which leads to more symptoms in a shorter time.
The reason is the double-action (stress + chocolate) that creates a vicious circle over time.
Does chocolate cause heartburn during pregnancy?
Pregnancy itself already is an important risk factor for heartburn and acid reflux.
It presents some typical symptoms, and they can worsen with the intake of some chocolate.
In these cases, chocolate can add its effects on LES to other, powerful, risk factors, like the increased abdominal pressure, and the often delayed digestion time.
It’s essential that pregnant women remove all possible risk factors, just because here are some that can’t be removed, until the end of the pregnancy period.
There are three important studies about the relationships between chocolate and pregnancy even beyond heartburn, and we want to present them below.
Not all the people are the same, that’s why pregnant women should have a diary to track everything that can give them heartburn.
By doing so, they can better know what to remove from diet.
Does Chocolate Cause Acid Reflux?
In addition to what we’ve considered above, the promoting action of chocolate for reflux has another reinforcement.
That’s why we can say that chocolate causes reflux, just because of the many factors that act for lowering the pressure of the LES.
The last (but not the least) important thing to remember is the following.
Chocolate contains the compounds theobromine and caffeine.
Different chocolate types also contain different amounts of theobromine.
The table below presents the varying concentration of this compound in different chocolate types.
Both theobromine and caffeine act on the LES, by reducing the pressure and making it relax.
That’s why reflux occurs.
Can hot chocolate cause acid reflux?
When it comes to hot chocolate, things are not different.
However, there’s a tip to add.
In fact, hot drinks (and foods) are definitely not good for health.
Even worse, for people who suffer from esophagus irritation, because of some lesions to the esophageal linen.
Hot food has been found in correlation with an increased risk of cancer and other diseases.
That’s why reflux sufferers must be very careful.
The action of a hot drink (or food) on an already weakened mucosal barrier can be highly dangerous.
Why Does Chocolate Cause Heartburn?
To summarize all factors related to chocolate, that play a role in determining reflux, we have:
- Cocoa is acidic, even though this is not the main factor that can cause reflux
- The hormone serotonin can relax the LES
- Theobromine and Caffeine also work on LES to reduce its pressure
- Fats contained in the chocolate lead to a slower digestion process and increased production of acid
In addition, we also must remember that chocolate is responsible for “more pain” when heartburn occurs, in people with reflux.
This is due to the increased amount of acid that exerts stronger aggression on the weakened esophageal mucosa.
When this set of actions is supported by the concomitant presence of other risk factors, heartburn is much more likely to occur and persist.
This cake is often reported as a promoting factor for heartburn.
This is mainly due to the following reasons:
- The fats content (more than 40%)
- The cholesterol content (around 20%)
- The carbs content (around 20%)
The addition of chocolate, with all that we’ve considered in the previous paragraphs, makes the picture worse.
If possible, people who suffer from heartburn and reflux should reduce (if not remove) the consumption of this cake.
They also should pay high attention to cheesecakes and related ingredient combinations, just because each of them can add more risk to experience some symptoms.
On the other hand, healthy people still have to listen to their organism and reduce the intake in case they feel heartburn-like symptoms after eating chocolate chip cookies.
Does chocolate aggravate acid reflux?
This specific topic is very important.
We’ve already considered the importance of chocolate components in promoting reflux.
With continued consumption, things progressively worsen.
However, there’s another fact to consider, which is even worse.
In fact, it has been noted that the adverse effect of chocolate on the LES is not reversed by gastric alkalinization.
This is so important because it means that working on the acidity parameter may not work.
The scientific community already agrees on the fact that acid is not the main factor for reflux, and in this case, we read that working on the pH of stomach content does not solve the issue caused by chocolate intake.
In the long run, this definitely makes your acid reflux worse.
That’s why a good action of prevention, with proper eating habits and lifestyle, is simply essential.
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Can chocolate give you indigestion?
Indigestion is often difficult to distinguish from heartburn because of very similar symptomatology.
Moreover, the onset time is also very similar (postprandial in many cases).
The specific role of chocolate can complicate things.
In fact, besides the increased acidity, the high content in fats tends to slow down digestion time.
In addition, fats can also cause an increase in stomach acid production.
This leads to prolonged discomfort and, in several cases, symptoms of greater intensity.
Under these circumstances, the presence of additional heartburn triggers, or risk factors, will help to precisely identify if this really is a heartburn episode or not.
Does Dark Chocolate Cause Heartburn?
When it comes to chocolate for heartburn and reflux, we should take the following as a general rule.
That being said, there are some differences between the different types of chocolate to consider.
Dark chocolate, for instance, could be better if you’re looking at the content in fats.
It has lower fats than other types.
However, its “darkness” is due to the high amount in theobromine, and caffeine.
Which is bad for reflux.
As you can see, there are some pros and cons, but many people can experience serious troubles.
Does dark chocolate cause acidity?
The problem with dark chocolate is not specifically related to the acidity.
The real point is the direct action of theobromine on the pressure of LES, which is reduced.
This fact makes reflux much more likely to occur.
Talking about acidity, theobromine in solution appears slightly acidic.
Another reason not to consider the acidity as the main factor for dark chocolate to ease the reflux and subsequent heartburn.
Does Chocolate Milk Cause Heartburn?
Chocolate milk is a totally different story.
This type is characterized by a very high content in fats.
So, besides the common action on the LES, chocolate milk also has the ability to slow gastric emptying, thus prolonging digestion times.
This is a real problem for the people who suffer from reflux.
That’s why chocolate milk, although with different properties than dark chocolate, is a product to avoid.
White chocolate and acid reflux
White chocolate has properties similar to milk chocolate milk when it comes to reflux.
In fact, it also presents a high content in fats.
In addition, white chocolate does not contain solids of cocoa, and this means that only very small amounts (we might say “traces”) of theobromine and caffeine can be found (if any).
This latter property is good, however, the above considered high content in fats (significantly higher than other chocolate types) is a strong downside.
Also, in this case, there is a triggering action on reflux and heartburn.
What we’ve presented above is the most up-to-date set of information to answer the question: does chocolate cause heartburn?
The answer is YES, it does.
But there also is a series of information to remember, to avoid mistakes now and for the future.
The list of 19 takeaways is below.
As always, remember that personal experience is essential.
This means that many people can feel symptoms, others don’t, even if their health conditions are the same.
It’s extraordinarily important to listen to the signals of your body, and act accordingly.
What To Do Next
Now, it’s time to take action, and not just with reference to chocolate.
We strongly recommend to check the following resources, that can help you a lot when it comes to getting rid of acid reflux and its symptoms, including heartburn.
By reading one or more (maybe all) of the resources listed below, you’re going to disciìover some good tips and actionable solutions concerning the role of chocolate in your diet.
Full Programs For Acid Reflux
Are you looking for the best "all-in-one" natural treatments for heartburn and acid reflux?
If so, please check these complete and deep resources to learn how to treat reflux fast.
You're going to find what to eat, what not to eat, how to eat, and much more.
The 5-Step System
3 Best Ingredients
The Reflux Report
The best suggestion we can give you, strictly speaking for chocolate, is to reduce the consumption and remove it from the diet if you feel any discomfort.
After all, as indicated in the above-listed resources, there are so many options to choose from.
We thank you for your patience and interest in the topic.
Stay tuned for more!