Foods That Can Worsen Heartburn

Avoid Foods Known to Trigger Acid Reflux

Japanese Fried Chicken
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If you've experienced the fiery, chest-clenching sensation of heartburn, you know it's an experience you don't want to repeat. While heartburn can have several causes, including medications, being overweight, and wearing tight clothes, one of the most common is diet. Luckily, diet is one of the causes you can change immediately to help relieve your heartburn.

When you have heartburn, one of the first things you might look for are foods are unlikely to cause heartburn or make your heartburn worse. But just as important are identifying those foods that worsen heartburn. For many people, certain foods can trigger heartburn symptoms, and it's best for people with chronic heartburn to limit or completely avoid these foods and beverages.

Though everyone is different, here is a list of the most problematic foods for people with heartburn or acid reflux.

Fried Foods

Deep-fried foods are one of the major triggers of heartburn and acid reflux. French fries, fried chicken, blooming onions, and other oil-drenched foods are hard to digest and can increase your chances of having a heartburn episode.

Fatty Foods

Fat slows down digestion. The longer you have food lingering in your stomach, the more likely pressure will build on your esophageal sphincter, causing acid reflux and heartburn.

Steer clear of highly fatty foods and meals, like cheesy casseroles, pizza, fried foods, and desserts. Marbled cuts of meat, the skin of poultry, and creamy sauces could also pose a problem for heartburn.

Citrus Fruits

Acidic foods like citrus fruits can stimulate acid production and increase heartburn.

 Avoid oranges, grapefruit, lemons. and their juice.

Tomato Products

Like citrus fruits, tomatoes and products made from tomatoes (tomato sauce, tomato paste, tomato juice) can stimulate the stomach to produce more acid. Foods that combine several heartburn offenders, such as pizza (tomato sauce and fatty cheese) or lasagna (tomato sauce, cheese, and meat) can be particularly problematic for people prone to heartburn.


Caffeine can stimulate acid, plus coffee is an acidic beverage. You may find you can tolerate decaf, but you may have to cut out coffee altogether to see if that helps reduce heartburn episodes.


Alcohol is one of the main culprits behind gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Alcohol increases the amount of acid the stomach produces and relaxes the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). This includes beer, wine, and distilled spirits.


Chocolate can prevent the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) from fully closing, which then causes stomach acid to creep up into the esophagus, causing the fiery pain of heartburn. In addition to chocolate bars, be mindful of hot chocolate, which can also trigger heartburn.


While peppermint tea might seem like a soothing remedy for heartburn, it can actually make it worse.

That's because mint relaxes the LES, causing acid reflux and heartburn.

Spicy Foods

Spicy foods are another trigger for heartburn, as they also relax the LES. Even black pepper can pose a problem, so get to know your own spice threshold.


Eating, Diet, & Nutrition for GER & GERD. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Published November 1, 2014.

Heartburn Risk factors. Mayo Clinic. Published August 7, 2014.