Why Do I Get Heartburn When I Haven’t Eaten: The Nine Reasons

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Growing up, you probably heard your parents talk about heartburn when it would affect them.

Unfortunately, as you age, at some point, it started to affect you, too.

Heartburn is something that nearly everyone in the world has experienced at one time or another, and usually, people know what they ate that caused them that kind of grief.

Typically, we link heartburn to foods that we eat and the beverages we consume.

Sometimes, though, unique situations can occur, and you will get heartburn that leaves you wondering, “Why do I get heartburn when I haven’t eaten anything that might have triggered it?

At the very minimum, we assume that the parts of our body that cause heartburn are only in action whenever our body is processing food.

What is going on when we get heartburn when we haven’t eaten?

We will give you nine potential reasons why the fiery feeling is plaguing you in your chest despite not having eaten anything.

What Is Heartburn?

Heartburn is a condition where your throat and chest area feels like it is very hot or burning; hence, the name.

A variety of factors can cause heartburn, but the primary reason it feels like burning is that the strong acids in your stomach have managed to come up into your esophagus.

This sometimes happens because the muscles separating the mentioned areas are not strong enough, so the acid was able to go up to your esophageal lining.

At other times, you eat too many acidic foods, and that causes the acid in your stomach to be too much and have some negative side effects.

Is It Possible to Get Heartburn When You Haven’t Eaten?

As noted earlier, yes, it is possible to get heartburn when you haven’t eaten.

While eating food is often a triggering factor for heartburn symptoms to begin manifesting, it is not always that direct of a relationship.

Remember that the systems in our body are always working even when we aren’t actively moving or eating something.

Since these systems are always in motion, the potential for negative symptoms, like heartburn, is possible at any time.

Still, there are some specific reasons why you might be experiencing heartburn even when you didn’t just eat a meal or drank a certain beverage, and we’re going to go into some of them and how to address them in more detail.

Why Do I Get Heartburn When I Haven’t Eaten?

If you visit a doctor to talk about your heartburn, one of the first things they will ask is your diet.

As most people know and what we constantly mention, heartburn is often caused by what you eat and what you drink, so your doctor wants to be sure you are eating a diet that won’t provoke any additional symptoms before moving into treatment options.

If you’re getting heartburn without eating anything, here are some of the reasons:

#1 Medicine

If you haven’t eaten anything but are experiencing heartburn, check the labels of all over-the-counter and prescription medications you took.

Heartburn is a common side effect of medicines for blood pressure, arthritis, inflammation, asthma, depression, anxiety, and more.

Consider switching any over-the-counter medicines that you are taking that list heartburn as a side effect, or change the time of the day you take the said medicine.

As with prescription medications, some will cause heartburn only when taken with the wrong food or drink, so you will want to track how you are taking your medicine to identify the problem.

If you still can’t seem to figure out the root cause, talk to your doctor about prescription medications that you are on that might be causing the negative side effect.

With their help, you can work to adjust your medicine to avoid this painful problem.

#2 Exercise

Exercise is good for the body, but it is possible for it to trigger heartburn!

Weightlifters often experience heartburn and acid reflux, and runners often show some symptoms of these issues as well.

Some believe this might be due to the increased pressure on the abdomen and stomach areas during a typical workout.

Of course, we’re not suggesting that you cut exercise out of your life because it is also important to stay active.

Instead, monitor your workouts and pay attention if your symptoms are developing throughout your workout.

Should you find that this is happening to you while you workout, symptoms that develop during a workout might be prevented with over-the-counter medication, eating a meal before the workout, or drinking more water.

Bonus Tip

Sometimes, drinking cold water on an empty stomach, especially before a workout, can cause you more harm than good.

Make sure that you stay hydrated, but don’t chug a massive amount of water on an empty stomach before or during your workout.

Having that much liquid in your stomach will make you experience heartburn as if you have eaten heartburn-causing food.

#3 Hiatal Hernia

If you’re getting heartburn even when you haven’t eaten anything, there is a chance that you have developed a type of hernia known as a hiatal hernia.

This type of hernia develops on the muscular wall that keeps your stomach and your chest separate, and this wall plays a significant role in controlling where your stomach acid can go.

Hiatal hernias allow acid reflux to occur, and this leads to heartburn.

Heartburn is typically the only symptom of this type of hernia, so it can be challenging to diagnose even if you check your symptoms and talk to a doctor about them.

#4 Long Breaks

In some cases, it has become clear that acid reflux is causing excessive heartburn in people even when they haven’t eaten because of the large gaps between meals.

You might, for example, feel terrible heartburn right when you wake up in the morning.

Your body was fasting all night, and an overactive acid-production system caused the acid to push into the esophagus and cause heartburn.

This could even happen in the middle of the day if you leave a very long gap between your meals.

To help with this type of heartburn, it can be beneficial to eat smaller meals throughout the day rather than spreading them out as much as you usually do.

#5 Change Your Sleeping Position

Even if you didn’t eat for a few hours before you laid down to sleep, you could start feeling heartburn once you lay down immediately.

Why does this happen if your body has already had ample time to digest?

Simply put, the position that you are in when you lay on your back puts extra pressure on the sphincter at the bottom of your esophagus.

why do i get heartburn when i haven't eaten

This sphincter is the LES, the muscle separating your stomach from your esophagus and is the root of acid reflux disorders.

When the LES is pressed on when you lie down flat, it can cause reflux to occur.

To avoid this, make sure you are elevating your head and shoulders when you sleep and not simply laying flat.

This can easily be done by putting a few pillows behind you.

#6 Saliva Problems

Do you have issues with your mouth health?

If so, these problems may be linked to your stomach and heartburn problems, too.

Saliva is naturally a very alkaline solution, so it helps to coat and protect your mouth and esophagus from the acidic nature of the digestive system.

Mouths that don’t produce saliva properly cannot protect your throat in the same way that it should be protected, and that can be a problem.

Talk to your doctor or dentist about any mouth-related health concerns, and they can help you figure out a way to improve your overall digestive situation as it ties all of these components together.

#7 Chill Out

Stress is another common culprit of heartburn.

As more and more science is done about the ways that our mental health can affect our bodies, this becomes very easy to believe.

In the case of stress, the direct link between stress and heartburn hasn’t been identified yet, but stress has been proven to cause behaviors that, in turn, cause heartburn.

For example, stress can cause people to change their normal routines, which might mean that they don’t eat as healthily or as frequently.

As we already learned today, large gaps in eating can cause heartburn!

Stressed people often report more heartburn, so trying some relaxation techniques might help to make you feel better:

  • Meditation
  • Exercising
  • Dedicating time to your hobbies
  • Reading
  • Sleeping a full night, every night

Even if these stress solutions don’t solve your heartburn, they will make you feel more ready to take on your condition with less stress involved.

#8 Tight Clothes

Have you ever worn something so tight that you were sure you wouldn’t be able to breathe properly in it?

Have you ever had to loosen your belt after a big meal so that you don’t feel so physically awful?

The tightness of your clothing can cause heartburn!

Just as laying flat in bed can cause your esophageal sphincter not to function properly, very tight clothing can push the abdomen in such a way that causes the body to shift and your esophagus to become exposed to acid.

Even if you haven’t eaten a meal in a while, this tightness can cause the acidic contents of your stomach to push up into your esophagus; hence, you’re feeling the burn.

Tight clothes are OK if they aren’t causing you this kind of grief, but it is something to keep in mind when you are suffering from heartburn without any obvious cause.

#9 Smoking

Another possible cause of heartburn is smoking.

Those who regularly smoke are more likely to suffer from heartburn.

Of course, smokers diagnosed with acid reflux are likely to suffer the worst of all.

Smoking does several things to your body, which can act as heartburn triggers, such as:

  • Reduces saliva in the mouth (see point #6)
  • Causes the LES to function slowly (see point #3)
  • Can increase the amount of bile salts in stomach acid, making it more damaging
  • Damages the esophagus causing it to be more sensitive

Overall, smoking is not good for your health, but it is something that you should truly consider quitting if you want your chronic heartburn to go away before it becomes irreversible.

An Alternative Heartburn Treatment Option

Now that you know more about why you might be getting heartburn even when you haven’t eaten and seen some of the treatment options, you might be feeling a bit overwhelmed by all of the information.

There are indeed many different causes of heartburn.

It’s also true that there are many different ways that people try to treat their heartburn symptoms.

Figuring out which cause and method fit with your heartburn can make it seem like you will never find a solution, but that’s not necessarily true.

Another option that you have besides the typical solutions of “no acids” and “try medicine” would be to take the holistic approach laid out in the Heartburn No More program.

This program teaches you a clear and systematic way to address your chronic heartburn, whether it is food-based or not, and reduce the effect it has on you for good.

If you want to try something different than the usual approaches, try this program that covers a wide array of beneficial information that will help you feel better than you have in ages.

Bye, Bye, Heartburn!

For most people, heartburn is not a chronic condition, so it can be very frustrating whenever you are dealing with heartburn that just won’t go away.

Remember, though, that heartburn should never be accepted as a permanent state.

If you find yourself asking, “Why do I get heartburn when I haven’t eaten?” every single day, it is time to take steps to improve your situation and get rid of the burn.

Talk to a doctor, change your diet, or invest in a program that will change your life forever.

No matter which path you choose to take, the key is that you do something to help you and your body find relief!

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