Avoiding Foods That Cause Heartburn

How Some Foods Can Increase the Risk of Acid Reflux

Man with indigestion
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Are you avoiding foods that cause heartburn? These foods can trigger different responses from the body that allow heartburn to happen.

Heartburn occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) -- the passageway from your esophagus to your stomach -- relaxes inappropriately and food comes back upward, or when the stomach produces too much acid and this is refluxed into the esophagus.

The following list will give you examples of foods that relax the LES or produce stomach acid and gas.

Foods That Can Relax the LES

  • Fried (greasy) foods
  • High-fat meats
  • Butter and margarine
  • Mayonnaise
  • Creamy sauces
  • Salad dressings
  • Whole-milk dairy products
  • Chocolate
  • Peppermint
  • Caffeinated beverages (e.g. soft drinks, coffee, tea, cocoa)

Foods that May Stimulate Acid Production and Increase Heartburn

  • Caffeinated beverages
  • Carbonated beverages
  • Alcohol
  • Spicy foods
  • Black pepper
  • Citrus fruit and juices (e.g. orange, grapefruit)
  • Tomato juice

Of course, everyone is different, so a food diary can be helpful in determining which specific foods are problematic for you.

What Else Plays a Role in Heartburn?

It is also important to remember that when you eat and how much you eat can also play a role in the occurrence of heartburn. Eating too close to bedtime, or eating a too large of a meal later at night, can contribute to nighttime heartburn.

Antacids will work very quickly on heartburn you may be experiencing before you go to bed.

It can also be used for those heartburn episodes that wake you up during the night if the heartburn comes back. An H2 blocker will work for a longer period of time, usually up to 12 hours, but they take an hour or so to begin working, and you are able to go back to sleep. Another option is to combine the two.

The antacid will provide the quick relief you need, and will likely last until the H2 blocker begins to work.

If you continue to experience frequent heartburn symptoms at night, see your health care provider. He or she will be able to diagnose whether you are suffering from just occasional heartburn, or something more serious, such as gastroesophageal reflux disease, an ulcer, or a hiatal hernia. You will be able to discuss with your health care provider different treatment options, including medications such as proton pump inhibitors.

Preventing heartburn when eating has much to do with preparation and how you eat. It isn't just about what foods you eat. You can follow some meal planning tips to prevent heartburn.

Managing Your Heartburn

You can find relief from your heartburn with a few self-care remedies. This involves making a few lifestyle and diet changes .

Here are a few suggestions:

  • Eat frequent smaller meals instead of three larger ones.
  • Eat slowly.
  • Don't go to bed with a full stomach.
  • Raise the head of your bed several inches.
  • Avoid your heartburn triggers.
  • Stop smoking.
  • Wear looser-fitting clothes.
  • Lose weight.
  • Chew gum.

  • Drink warm liquids.

More About Living and Eating Heartburn-Free

Source: Peikin, M.D., Steven R.. Gastrointestinal Health. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers, Inc., 2004.