Why Does Marinara Sauce Give Me Heartburn? A Detailed Guide

Do you love a good plate of spaghetti with marinara sauce, but always end up with a burning sensation in your chest afterwards?

You’re not alone.

Many people experience heartburn after eating tomato-based sauces like marinara. But why does this happen?

In this article, we’ll explore the science behind why marinara sauce can give you heartburn and what you can do to enjoy your favorite Italian dishes without the discomfort.

So grab a glass of water and let’s dive in!

Why Does Marinara Sauce Give Me Heartburn?

Marinara sauce is made from tomatoes, which are naturally acidic. This acidity can irritate the lining of your esophagus and cause heartburn.

Tomatoes contain two types of acids that can contribute to heartburn: citric acid and malic acid. When you eat foods that are high in acid, like marinara sauce, your stomach produces more acid to digest the food. This increase in stomach acid can cause the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) to relax, allowing stomach acid to flow back up into your esophagus.

The LES is a ring of muscle at the bottom of your esophagus that acts as a valve, preventing stomach acid from flowing back up into your throat. When the LES relaxes, it can’t do its job properly, and stomach acid can escape into your esophagus, causing heartburn.

In addition to the acidity of tomatoes, other ingredients in marinara sauce can also contribute to heartburn. Garlic and onions, which are often used in marinara sauce, are both known to trigger heartburn in some people.

Understanding Heartburn And Acid Reflux

Heartburn is a common symptom of acid reflux, a condition where stomach acid flows back up into the esophagus. Acid reflux occurs when the LES, the ring of muscle at the bottom of the esophagus, fails to close properly. This can happen for a variety of reasons, including overeating, lying down after a meal, or consuming certain foods and drinks.

When stomach acid flows back up into the esophagus, it can cause a burning sensation in the chest or throat. Other symptoms of acid reflux may include regurgitation of stomach acid or food, difficulty swallowing, and a sour taste in the mouth.

Certain foods and drinks are known to trigger acid reflux symptoms in some people. These include high-fat foods, spicy foods, citrus fruits and juices, tomatoes and tomato-based products, garlic and onions, chocolate, coffee, and peppermint.

To prevent heartburn and acid reflux symptoms, it’s important to avoid trigger foods and drinks. Eating smaller meals throughout the day instead of three large ones can also help reduce symptoms. It’s also recommended to avoid lying down for at least two hours after eating and to elevate the head of your bed if you experience symptoms at night.

If you experience frequent or severe heartburn or acid reflux symptoms, it’s important to talk to your doctor. They may recommend lifestyle changes or medications to help manage your symptoms and prevent long-term damage to your esophagus.

The Role Of Tomatoes In Triggering Heartburn

Tomatoes are a common ingredient in many dishes, including marinara sauce, but their high acidity can trigger heartburn. The malic and citric acid found in tomatoes can cause your stomach to produce too much gastric acid, which can force the acid back up into your esophagus. Cooking tomatoes won’t reduce the acidity enough to prevent acid reflux either.

Even if you don’t directly consume tomatoes, they can still cause heartburn and acid reflux if they are used in a sauce or marinade. Tomato-based foods such as ketchup, marinara sauce, and tomato-based soups are also not good for your stomach due to their naturally acidic nature. This means that even small amounts of tomato products can trigger heartburn and acid reflux.

Eliminating tomatoes from your diet might help to reduce the severity or frequency of your heartburn and acid reflux. While it may be difficult to completely cut tomatoes from your diet since they are hidden in many items, reducing the amount of tomato you eat can make a significant difference. There are plenty of other produce options you can incorporate into your diet to cut down on tomato consumption, such as cucumbers, olives, or radishes.

Other Ingredients In Marinara Sauce That Can Cause Heartburn

Apart from tomatoes, garlic, and onions, there are other ingredients in marinara sauce that can cause heartburn. One of these is spicy peppers, which can irritate the lining of your esophagus and cause heartburn. Spicy peppers like chili and cayenne contain capsaicin, which can increase stomach acid production and relax the LES.

Another ingredient to watch out for is cheese. Cheese is high in fat, which can slow down digestion and cause food to sit in your stomach longer. This can lead to an increase in stomach acid production and exacerbate heartburn symptoms.

Lastly, herbs like oregano and basil, which are commonly used in marinara sauce, can also contribute to heartburn. While these herbs are generally considered healthy, they can relax the LES and increase stomach acid production in some people.

To avoid heartburn when eating marinara sauce, it’s best to limit or avoid these ingredients altogether. Opt for low-acid tomatoes or tomato alternatives like roasted red peppers or butternut squash. Use garlic and onions sparingly or try using substitutes like shallots or leeks. Choose a low-fat cheese or skip it altogether. And use herbs in moderation or try using milder alternatives like parsley or thyme.

By making these simple substitutions, you can still enjoy a delicious bowl of marinara sauce without the unpleasant side effects of heartburn.

Tips For Reducing Heartburn When Eating Marinara Sauce

If you love marinara sauce but suffer from heartburn after eating it, there are a few tips you can follow to reduce your symptoms:

1. Choose low-acid tomatoes: Not all tomatoes are created equal when it comes to acidity. Look for varieties of tomatoes that are lower in acid, such as San Marzano or Roma tomatoes. These types of tomatoes have a sweeter taste and are less likely to trigger heartburn.

2. Add alkaline ingredients: Incorporating alkaline ingredients, such as baking soda or butter, can help neutralize the acidity of the tomatoes in your marinara sauce. Be careful not to add too much baking soda, as it can affect the flavor of your sauce.

3. Avoid garlic and onions: While these ingredients add flavor to your marinara sauce, they can also trigger heartburn in some people. Try using alternative seasonings, such as basil or oregano, to add flavor without the risk of heartburn.

4. Eat smaller portions: Eating large meals can put pressure on your stomach and increase the likelihood of heartburn. Try eating smaller portions of marinara sauce and pairing it with a salad or other low-acid foods.

5. Wait before lying down: It’s important to give your body time to digest before lying down after eating marinara sauce. Wait at least two hours before lying down to reduce the risk of stomach acid flowing back up into your esophagus.

By following these tips, you can still enjoy the delicious taste of marinara sauce without experiencing heartburn afterwards.

Alternatives To Marinara Sauce For Heartburn Sufferers

If you suffer from heartburn, you may be wondering what alternatives there are to marinara sauce. Fortunately, there are several options that can provide the same delicious flavor without the acidity.

1. Pesto: Pesto is a great alternative to marinara sauce. It’s made with basil, garlic, pine nuts, and olive oil, and has a rich and savory flavor. Pesto is also lower in acidity than marinara sauce, making it less likely to cause heartburn.

2. Olive oil and herbs: If you’re looking for a simple alternative to marinara sauce, try mixing olive oil with your favorite herbs. Basil, oregano, and parsley are all great choices. This combination is low in acidity and easy to make.

3. Roasted red pepper sauce: Roasted red pepper sauce is another great alternative to marinara sauce. It’s made with roasted red peppers, garlic, and olive oil, and has a sweet and smoky flavor. This sauce is low in acidity and can be found at most grocery stores.

4. Alfredo sauce: If you’re looking for a creamy alternative to marinara sauce, try Alfredo sauce. It’s made with cream, butter, and Parmesan cheese, and has a rich and indulgent flavor. While it’s higher in fat than other sauces, it’s lower in acidity and less likely to cause heartburn.

5. White wine sauce: White wine sauce is a light and flavorful alternative to marinara sauce. It’s made with white wine, chicken broth, garlic, and butter, and has a tangy and slightly sweet flavor. This sauce is low in acidity and pairs well with seafood and pasta dishes.