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Should You Avoid Those Valentine's Day Chocolates If You Have Heartburn?

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If you deal with occasional heartburn, is chocolate always off-limits?

Is it possible to think about Valentine’s Day without simultaneously thinking about chocolate? Maybe. But for most of us, Feb. 14 is synonymous with big red, heart-shaped boxes full of delicious sweet treats.

But what if you deal with occasional heartburn? According to the American College of Gastroenterology, around 60 million Americans have reported having heartburn episodes at least once each month, which means you’re not alone in worrying if your heartburn may flare up if you eat chocolate.

Why Can Chocolate Cause Heartburn?

According to Wei Ming Sun, Ph.D., a research scientist at the University of Michigan Department of Internal Medicine, a study done at the University of Michigan Health System showed that chocolate can cause “a large amount of serotonin to be released from the cells in the intestines.” She goes on to say that research suggests that serotonin causes the lower esophageal sphincter to relax. The relaxation of the sphincter means that the connection between the esophagus and stomach is opened and acid is allowed to flow back up to the esophagus.

Is Chocolate Really Off Limits For Heartburn Sufferers?

For someone who experiences occasional heartburn but still truly loves a chocolate treat here and there, is there hope? According to Lauren Gerson, a practicing gastroenterologist and the director of Stanford's Esophageal and Small Bowel Disorder Center, there is!

Unless you know for a fact that chocolate directly causes you heartburn (i.e., every single time you eat it, you have symptoms), Gerson says her research shows that except for the “unlucky few whose heartburn is clearly triggered by a particular food,” there’s no need for complete “dietary deprivation.”

While she goes on to say that more research needs to be done to definitively prove her theory, she doesn’t recommend totally eliminating all the foods you love just because you deal with occasional heartburn. However, it’s still important to discuss with your doctor what the best approach is for you to personally manage your heartburn.

So this Valentine's Day, if your box of chocolates causes your occasional heartburn to flare up, keep a bottle of TUMS Chewy Bites close by. The active ingredient in TUMS Chewy Bites — calcium carbonate — neutralizes acid on contact1, which means it provides fast and trusted relief.

1Use as directed