Chocoholics will be ready to indulge in chocolatey treats this time of year – from bars to truffles to Easter eggs – but there can be too much of a good thing.
Overindulging in chocolate can lead to an increase in reflux symptoms. Reflux is a condition in which stomach acid backs up into the oesophagus, often causing a burning sensation in the chest or throat (heartburn).
Eating too much chocolate – especially dark chocolate or chocolate with a high fat content – can trigger reflux symptoms in some people.
But why does chocolate lead to increased symptoms?
Chocolate is known to contain several components that can trigger reflux disease in some people. One of these components is caffeine, which can relax the lower oesophageal sphincter (LES) and allow stomach acid to flow back into the oesophagus, leading to symptoms of reflux.
Chocolate also contains a compound called theobromine, which can cause the LES – the ring of muscle that separates the oesophagus from the stomach – to relax and contribute to the development of reflux symptoms.
Theobromine is a bitter alkaloid that is found naturally in several plants, including cocoa beans, tea leaves, and coffee beans. It is a close chemical relative of caffeine and is structurally similar to it.
Problem from excess calories
Consuming foods that are high in fat and calories can potentially worsen reflux symptoms for some people.
When you eat a high-fat meal, your stomach takes longer to empty its contents into the small intestine. This can increase pressure on the LES. When the LES is under pressure, it can open up and allow stomach acid to reflux into the oesophagus, causing symptoms such as heartburn, regurgitation, and indigestion.
Additionally, high-calorie foods can contribute to weight gain, which is a known risk factor for developing reflux disease. Excess weight can put pressure on the stomach, which can also increase the likelihood of reflux symptoms.
So, should I ditch the chocolate eggs?
Of course, not everyone with reflux disease will experience symptoms after consuming chocolate, and the severity of symptoms can vary depending on the individual.
If you’re prone to reflux, you may want to stick to small amounts of milk chocolate, which is less likely to trigger symptoms. And if you do overindulge, be sure to drink plenty of water and avoid lying down immediately after eating to help prevent reflux.
It’s a good idea to talk to your healthcare provider about your diet and any triggers that may be causing your symptoms.