Two Common Causes for Heartburn in Young Adults

Heartburn in young adults is a sign of acid reflux and is commonly due to medications or the consumption of foods that relax the muscles that keep acids that are produced in the stomach from entering the throat (esophagus).

Certain foods can cause the over production of acids while relaxing these muscles, but this is more common in people who have reached a more mature stage of life. Alternatively, a person can develop chronic acid reflux during adolescence, a disease known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD),

More commonly however, heartburn in young adults is attributed to alcohol consumption and medication side effects. Regardless of the cause of heartburn however, the reason young adults might experience heartburn is similar to those who have acid reflux symptoms at any age.


How Heartburn in Young Adults Happens

Heartburn in young adults is the result of increased acid production and a weakened LES. The LES, or lower esophageal sphincter, is the muscle that prevents stomach acid from entering the esophagus.

When we eat certain foods or take certain medications there are two primary reasons it can cause heartburn; the substance relaxes the LES or causes an increased production of stomach acids. Some substances cause both to occur and this is usually the case with heartburn in young adults.

Substances that relax the LES muscle include chocolate, alcohol, and some medications.

Substances that cause a higher production of acid in the stomach include medications, citrus fruits, carbonated drinks of any kind, and alcohol.

Consuming any of these substances can lead to heartburn in young adults. When consumed in combination, such as citrus mixed drinks, the risk of acid reflux increases.


Why Alcohol Consumption Causes Heartburn in Young Adults

By understanding what types of things commonly cause heartburn in young adults, we can easily see how alcoholic beverages can cause heartburn in young adults.

The first (and perhaps most important) component of heartburn is a relaxed LES. All alcoholic beverages cause this muscle to relax. With the LES open, any extra production of stomach acid can cause heartburn if it is allowed to enter the esophagus.

The second component is increased stomach acid. Since many of the most common alcoholic beverages include items that directly increase the risk of stomach acid production, heartburn in young adults who drink these beverages can be inevitable for some.

Citrus is a common component in alcohol based cocktails. Margarita mixers are made from lime, vodka is often mixed with orange juice, and grapefruit juice is commonly used as a mixer, as well. These three citrus fruits makes up the base for hundred of mixed drinks alone.

Carbonated soda is another very common mixer for alcoholic beverages. To add to the likelihood of heartburn, many carbonated sodas used as drinks mixers are flavored with lemon and lime (citrus). Carbonation also causes gastric pressure, another reason for stomach acids to be pushed up and into the esophagus. Carbonation is the reason beer makes us burp and the reason it is so filling for some people.


Why Medications can Cause Heartburn in Young Adults

Not all medications cause heartburn in young adults. Those that do are likely to cause heartburn in mature adults, as well. Some of the most common types of medications to cause this side effect include over the counter pain medication and analgesics like ibuprofen and aspirin.

It should be noted here that these two drugs are often taken for the residual effect of alcohol consumption, as well. With alcohol still in the stomach and the LES relaxed, these two items can cause a triple-threat of sorts for heartburn in young adults that drink alcohol.

Tricyclic antidepressants, antibiotics, potassium and iron supplements, and even sedatives can carry the side effects related to acid reflux.

Less likely to be a cause for heartburn in young adults simply because they are less likely to need them, but still worth mentioning are medications that control blood pressure and some supplements that target bone strength.


Why Heartburn in Young Adults is Less Common

In most people, heartburn is caused by short term acid reflux, a chronic acid reflux disease like GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), or certain foods that cause higher amounts of acid to be excreted by the stomach. These acids in the stomach that are meant to help us digest food can find their way into the esophagus as a direct result of a relaxed or weakened LES.
As we age, stomach acids erode the health of the LES and it becomes weaker, so heartburn in older adults occurs more frequently than heartburn in younger adults will occur.

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