Heartburn and Chocolate Equals Bad News

This is just about the worst news for chocolate lovers who suffer from the frequent heartburn: chocolate is one of the most common, and strongest, triggers for the episodes of heartburn. A cure against stress, depression, bad moods and any other negative feeling has always been linked to the power of chocolate. Chocolate is responsible for us having heartburn because of a chemical called serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is responsible for regulating our emotions, moods, appetites, and even sleep. It also has the dubious honor of causing the lower esophageal sphincter to relax. The lower esophageal sphincter or LES is located between the esophagus and the stomach. The lower esophageal sphincter’s job is to keep the food/stomach acid combination inside the stomach so it won’t go into the esophagus and hurt it

What makes chocolate such a strong heartburn trigger is the fact that it not only contains serotonin, but theobromine as well. Some of the benefits theobromine has on the body includes heart stimulation, expanding the size of blood vessels as even being a diuretic so you can go to the bathroom better. But unfortunately it also affects the lower esophageal sphincter by relaxing it which allows stomach acid to touch the esophagus and burn it.

If you know that you develop heartburn from chocolate, you know what you have to do: eliminate it from your diet. But, for most of us, that is a bit too much to ask. We love our chocolate, it is one of great life pleasures. Fortunately, doctors are humans too, so Dr. Wei Ming Sun from the University Of Michigan Department Of Internal Medicine and his team conducted a study about the effect of chocolate on the LES. They did not find anything they did not expect: chocolate is really a powerful heartburn trigger. But, they found that, if taken with Granisetron, a common nausea remedy, the effects of chocolate on our heartburn are much reduced. Not an ideal solution, but the solution nevertheless.

There are a few other studies that are shedding doubt on the traditional thinking that the best way to prevent heartburn is by eliminating foods that trigger heartburn flare-ups. Some of them, like Dr. Laura Gertson, gastroenterologist and director of Stanford’s Esophageal and Small Bowel Disorder Center, came to the conclusion that the prevailing wisdom is wrong: staying away from trigger foods does not help heartburn and we can eat whatever we want. The study was published in the May issue of the magazine Archives of Internal Medicine.
Although we like to hear such news about heartburn, and we would like nothing better than to indulge in as many Godivas and Hersheys, we have good reason to doubt such findings. We know better from our everyday life. We know that we pay for eating chocolate with bad heartburn, and that the only way to continue indulging is to do it in very small doses.

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