Do you get heartburn after eating chocolate? Chocolate is not only one of America’s best loved foods, it has a surprising number of health benefits due to the flavonoids it contains. These flavonoids fight free radical damage and reduce inflammation, and also boost the production of nitric oxide, a chemical which helps to lower blood pressure. There’s no doubt about it. Eating chocolate is healthy for your heart – but maybe not so good for your esophagus. Find out more about chocolate and heartburn.
Chocolate and Heartburn: Does Chocolate Cause Heartburn after Eating?
Sadly, that morsel of dark chocolate you enjoy after dinner could bring on heartburn later. How could something so good for your heart cause heartburn? Chocolate contains theobromines, an alkaloid compound that’s related to caffeine found in coffee, tea and soft drinks. The theobromines in chocolate lower esophageal sphincter pressure so that acid can more easily make its way from the stomach back into the esophagus. The result? A bad case of heartburn.
Some people are exquisitely sensitive to the theobromines in chocolate and experience heartburn after eating only a small amount of chocolate. Dry cocoa powder and unsweetened Baker’s chocolate contain the greatest amounts of theobromine followed by dark chocolate. Milk chocolate contains less, and white chocolate only has tiny amounts. You may be able to eat white chocolate without triggering heartburn symptoms, although white chocolate is high in fat, which can cause heartburn too. Of course, white chocolate lacks the health benefits that makes dark chocolate such a healthy treat.
Chocolate Isn’t the Only Food That Causes Heartburn after Eating
Since theobromine in chocolate is closely related to the caffeine molecule, it’s not surprising that caffeinated drinks such as coffee and tea trigger heartburn. Other culprits are alcohol, citrus juices, onions, tomatoes and foods that are high in fat.
Chocolate and Heartburn: The Bottom Line?
Chocolate, particularly dark chocolate, can trigger heartburn in people who have acid reflux problems. If you can’t stay away from chocolate, eat a small amount of white chocolate instead of dark chocolate if you’re prone towards acid reflux symptoms. You won’t get the same health benefits, and you’ll get too much fat and sugar, but you’re less likely to get heartburn after eating it.
Merck Manual. Eighteenth edition. 2006.