Heartburn: What to Eat & What Not to Eat

by Ella

Heartburn, a burning sensation in the chest or throat, is a common discomfort that affects millions of people worldwide. Often triggered by the reflux of stomach acid into the esophagus, heartburn can be exacerbated by certain foods. However, making informed dietary choices can play a crucial role in managing and alleviating heartburn symptoms. In this article, we will explore a variety of foods that are known to be beneficial for heartburn relief, providing insight into how dietary adjustments can contribute to your overall well-being.

Symptoms of Heartburn:

1. Burning Sensation: The hallmark symptom of heartburn is a burning sensation or discomfort that typically starts in the chest and may radiate to the throat or neck. It often occurs after eating or when lying down.


2. Acidic Taste: Some individuals may experience a sour or acidic taste in the mouth, often accompanied by regurgitation of stomach contents.


3. Chest Pain: While heartburn is not related to the heart itself, its symptoms can mimic chest pain, leading to confusion. Chest pain caused by heartburn is usually more intense after meals and may be relieved by antacids.


4. Difficulty Swallowing: Severe or chronic heartburn can lead to narrowing of the esophagus, causing difficulty or discomfort while swallowing (dysphagia).


5. Coughing and Wheezing: In some cases, stomach acid can enter the airways, triggering coughing, wheezing, or exacerbating respiratory conditions.

6. Hoarseness: Irritation of the esophagus can affect the vocal cords, leading to hoarseness or changes in voice quality.

Causes of Heartburn:

1. Gastroesophageal Reflux: The primary cause of heartburn is gastroesophageal reflux, which occurs when stomach acid flows back into the esophagus. This can happen due to a weakened lower esophageal sphincter (LES), the muscle that separates the stomach from the esophagus.

2. Hiatal Hernia: A hiatal hernia occurs when a portion of the stomach pushes through the diaphragm, allowing stomach acid to move into the esophagus more easily.

3. Dietary Triggers: Certain foods and beverages can trigger or worsen heartburn. High-fat foods, spicy foods, acidic foods (like citrus fruits and tomatoes), caffeine, and carbonated drinks are common culprits.

4. Eating Habits: Overeating, eating large meals, and lying down immediately after eating can increase the risk of acid reflux and heartburn.

5. Obesity: Excess weight, especially around the abdomen, can put pressure on the stomach and LES, contributing to acid reflux.

6. Pregnancy: Hormonal changes and pressure on the abdomen during pregnancy can lead to relaxation of the LES and increased risk of heartburn.

7. Smoking: Smoking can weaken the LES and stimulate stomach acid production, making individuals more susceptible to heartburn.

8. Medications: Some medications, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and certain pain relievers, can irritate the stomach lining and contribute to heartburn.

Foods to Include for Heartburn Relief:

1. Oatmeal and Whole Grains: Oatmeal is a soothing, low-acid option that can help absorb excess stomach acid. Whole grains like brown rice and whole wheat bread are gentle on the stomach.

2. Ginger: Ginger’s anti-inflammatory properties can help reduce irritation in the esophagus. Enjoy ginger tea or incorporate fresh ginger into meals.

3. Bananas: Bananas are low in acidity and can help coat the stomach lining, providing relief from heartburn. They also contain fiber, which aids digestion.

4. Lean Proteins: Opt for lean protein sources like skinless poultry, fish, and tofu. These proteins are less likely to trigger acid reflux.

5. Non-Citrus Fruits: Choose fruits like melons, apples, and pears, which have lower acidity levels compared to citrus fruits.

6. Vegetables: Most vegetables are well-tolerated and rich in fiber, aiding digestion. Avoid high-acid options like tomatoes and onions if they trigger your heartburn.

7. Non-Mint Herbal Teas: Chamomile, licorice, and marshmallow root teas are soothing options that can help alleviate heartburn symptoms.

8. Almonds: Almonds are a low-acid snack that can help neutralize stomach acid. However, consume them in moderation due to their calorie density.

Foods to Avoid to Prevent Heartburn:

1. High-Fat Foods: Fatty foods can delay stomach emptying and relax the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), leading to acid reflux. Limit fried foods, fatty meats, and full-fat dairy products.

2. Acidic Foods: High-acid foods like citrus fruits, tomatoes, and vinegar can irritate the esophagus and worsen heartburn symptoms.

3. Spicy Foods: Spices and hot peppers can stimulate stomach acid production and trigger heartburn. Reduce or eliminate highly spiced dishes.

4. Caffeine and Carbonated Drinks: Coffee, tea, carbonated beverages, and energy drinks can relax the LES and increase stomach acid production.

5. Mint and Peppermint: Mint can relax the LES and worsen heartburn. Avoid peppermint candies, gum, and mint-flavored foods.

6. Onions and Garlic: These foods can trigger heartburn in some individuals due to their high acidity content and potential to relax the LES.

7. Chocolate: Chocolate contains both caffeine and fat, making it a potential trigger for heartburn. Limit chocolate consumption, especially close to bedtime.

8. High-Sugar Foods: Sugary foods and beverages can contribute to weight gain and may increase the risk of acid reflux. Reduce sugary snacks and desserts.

Eating Habits for Heartburn Relief

Beyond specific foods, adopting certain eating habits can also contribute to heartburn relief:

1. Portion Control: Eating smaller, more frequent meals can prevent overloading the stomach and reduce the pressure on the LES.

2. Mindful Eating: Eat slowly and chew your food thoroughly to aid digestion and prevent overeating.

3. Avoid Late-night Eating: Give your stomach time to digest before lying down or going to bed. Aim to finish meals at least two to three hours before bedtime.

4. Stay Hydrated: Adequate water intake helps dilute stomach acid and supports digestion. Sip water throughout the day.

5. Stay Upright: Maintain an upright posture while eating and for at least 30 minutes after meals to reduce the risk of acid reflux.

6. Limit Trigger Foods: While certain foods may be heartburn-friendly, it’s important to identify and avoid individual trigger foods that exacerbate your symptoms.

Lifestyle Factors and Heartburn

In addition to dietary changes, certain lifestyle factors can contribute to heartburn relief:

1. Maintain a Healthy Weight: Excess weight, especially around the abdomen, can put pressure on the stomach and LES, increasing the risk of acid reflux.

2. Regular Physical Activity: Engaging in regular exercise can help maintain a healthy weight and promote digestion.

3. Stress Management: Stress can exacerbate heartburn symptoms. Practicing relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, and yoga can help manage stress.

4. Elevate the Head of Your Bed: Raising the head of your bed by a few inches can help prevent stomach acid from flowing back into the esophagus while you sleep.


Managing heartburn through dietary and lifestyle choices is a proactive approach to alleviating discomfort and improving overall well-being. By incorporating heartburn-friendly foods, adopting mindful eating habits, and making positive lifestyle changes, you can find relief and regain control over your digestive health. As always, consulting with a healthcare professional or registered dietitian can provide personalized guidance tailored to your unique needs and health goals.



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