Most people do not realize how prevalent heartburn can be. When that pain starts burning in your chest, you're not thinking about the 60 million other people who are suffering from the same thing. You're thinking about relief and you're probably wondering what you did to cause it in the first place. While most people will be able to identify that spicy dish they just had to try or the overindulgence at the holiday dinner, there are other severe heartburn trigger foods that you may not realize are causing your discomfort.

1. Peppermint

While it may be a common practice to suck on a few peppermint candies to give you that minty fresh breath, these tasty little treats can actually backfire on you. The soothing effects of the menthol in peppermint can be too relaxing and the esophageal sphincter (the valve that separates the esophagus from the stomach) can slow down to the point that it doesn't work properly. The result is more acid getting through the valve causing heartburn.

2. Citrus

Any type of citrus fruit can also be the culprit. They are much more acidic than other fruits and are likely to cause heartburn, especially when you eat them on an empty stomach.

3. Tomatoes

Many would be surprised to know that tomatoes are also very highly acidic and have made the list of severe heartburn trigger foods. While they may have loads of other healthy nutrients, it's best to limit your consumption of them to keep the acid level in your stomach down.

4. Garlic and Onions

While these don't affect everyone the same way, there are some who are highly sensitive to garlic and onions. If you find that your heartburn occurs after eating these foods you might want to consider reducing your consumption of them or dropping them altogether.

5. Cheese and Nuts

Highly fatty foods like cheeses and nuts can also be surprisingly acidic. Part of the reason for this is that fat slows down the digestive process meaning that your stomach will stay full longer, increasing pressure on the esophageal sphincter and increasing the chances of acid being pushed back up into the upper body.

6. Alcohol

Alcohol, especially when combined with a big meal can be just as relaxing as peppermint. Once that sphincter is open stomach acid can go anywhere in the upper body where it wants to go.

7. Caffeine

Anything with caffeine in it can also be a contributing factor for your heartburn. Try to keep your consumption down to about a half a cup a day and you'll see improvement.

8. Chocolate

Chocolate also relaxes the sphincter so the stomach acid again has free reign throughout your upper body.

9. Carbonated Beverages

Drinking anything carbonated can cause your stomach to bloat or distend increasing pressure on your sphincter. If you have frequent heartburn it may be best to avoid carbonated drinks altogether.

It is difficult enough to deal with heartburn and in most cases people can do something to avoid it. By learning what the severe heartburn trigger foods are you can save yourself a lot of pain. While these trigger foods will not affect everyone the same way, once you know your triggers and how to avoid them you'll find that you'll have a world of relief from your heartburn pain.