Heartburn is a common condition often described as a mild or intense burning sensation in the chest that occurs during or after a meal. Many things can trigger this uncomfortable sensation, but the most common are spicy foods. Since cinnamon falls under the spice category, I've often been asked if it could be a possible trigger for heartburn, while others ask if it could be a cure.
Let's find out which side of the fence cinnamon sits on in this debate below:
Is Cinnamon the Spice Behind the Burn?
Straight off the bat, I can see why cinnamon can be a heartburn trigger due to its status as a spice. But after looking at the properties, I think the possibility doesn't come from its status as a spice but rather some of its effects.
However, it must be noted that, to date, no research has suggested that the spice causes or exacerbates acid reflux. There have been infrequent reports of heartburn symptoms or heartburn worsening after cinnamon consumption.
Let's look at why this may be the case for some:
The acidity of Cinnamon
Certain types of cinnamon are quite acidic. When we eat acidic things, our body makes more stomach acid to aid digestion. Excess acid production can irritate the esophagus (a tube that carries everything we consume from our mouth to our stomach), leading to heartburn.
Digestive Tract Irritation
Cinnamon can irritate the lining of the digestive tract, again causing an increase in acid production. This extra acidity can cause indigestion, a sick feeling, or heartburn.
Effect on Lower Esophageal Sphincter (LES)
The oils in cinnamon can make a muscle valve in your stomach, called LES, relax. Normally, this muscle stops stomach acid from going back up into your throat. When the LES is relaxed or opens too much, stomach acid backflows into the esophagus, causing heartburn symptoms.
From looking at this, I'm sure you're thinking that cinnamon could possibly cause or worsen heartburn at any and every sprinkle, but it doesn't. I found that the above effects are only induced when large doses of cinnamon are involved. In addition, the reports of heartburn after consumption that I came across always involve large, unapproved doses. It's a good idea to stick to an amount of cinnamon that suits you and reduce doses if it gives you heartburn.
The Two Sides of Cinnamon
We've discussed that having cinnamon in large amounts can possibly trigger heartburn, but what about recommended amounts? I recently wrote an article about the benefits of cinnamon which, of course, comes from consuming recommended doses.
I noticed that some of the properties mentioned there could be useful in alleviating heartburn, which explains why some people think of cinnamon as a cure for heartburn. Cinnamon is known for its potent anti-inflammatory properties, which can help soothe the digestive tract.
This makes it a possible remedy for indigestion or other gastrointestinal issues. The spice is also thought to stimulate digestion by increasing digestive enzymes and bile production, which helps relieve gas and bloating.
Also, not all cinnamon are equal by nature. Some types can range in pH levels between 3.54-3.80, indicating high acidity, which can trigger heartburn. While others are considered alkaline, with a pH ranging between 4-10, which can help neutralize stomach acidity and reduce heartburn symptoms.
Research shows that Ceylon cinnamon tends to be less acidic than Cassia cinnamon. So, if you're prone to heartburn, opt for Ceylon cinnamon instead. It also doesn't hurt to consult your doctor before knocking cinnamon off your dietary list or adding it because you have heartburn.
It's interesting to note that research on cinnamon reveals a dual role concerning heartburn—with theories saying:
While large-scale research says that cinnamon's stance as cause or cure depends on the dosage administered and the type of cinnamon consumed, no studies support either theory. So, you can have cinnamon in recommended amounts without worrying about heartburn. As a safety measure, those prone to heartburn or digestive issues opt for Ceylon cinnamon and consult their doctor before use.