Lentils are part of the legume family, which is notorious for causing bloating, gas and heartburn, especially if you have a weakened digestive system. Lentils are a high-fiber food that can help ease constipation and promote regularity. They also are high in protein, making them an ideal substitute for meat. Heartburn occurs when acid from undigested food backs up through your esophagus and causes a burning sensation in your chest.
Occasional heartburn typically does not cause complications, but when it occurs regularly, heartburn can lead to gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD. Your esophagus can undergo damage, which may require surgery to repair. Prescription medication may be needed to tame the severity of the acid buildup.
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While beans and legumes may cause discomfort, it may be the way you cook them that causes the heartburn. Spices and oils are common culprits of heartburn. Onions and garlic, commonly used to prepare lentils also may cause the acid buildup and heartburn. Acidic vegetables used to enhance lentil dishes such as tomatoes or tomato sauce also may exacerbate a weakened stomach lining.
You may have difficulty digesting the fibrous properties in lentils, which leads to bloating, burping and heartburn. When partially digested beans enter the colon, they produce gas that can cause the discomfort. According to the American College of Gastroenterology, the sugar in lentils, baked beans and lima beans creates a common problem for people with an intolerance to the sugars. Additionally, you may be overly sensitive to the abdominal stretching that occurs when you eat lentils and you may not be able to comfortably allow the gas and acid to pass, typically through flatulence. By holding on to the excessive gas, you develop a backup in the digestive juices that can lead to heartburn.
If lentils cause heartburn for you but you wish to continue eating them, take measures to reduce the symptoms. Eat slowly and allow time for the beans to digest. Mix the lentils with white rice, which is effective for reducing acid and bloating. Don't lie down for at least 3 to 4 hours after eating and don't overeat. A regular serving of lentils is about one-half cup. Lose weight if you are overweight, because excess weight puts pressure on your digestive system, making it more difficult to process high-fiber foods and spicy meals, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.