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Healthcare 101: Avoiding Heartburn – 7 Trigger Foods

While not the most serious health concern you can face in your life, heartburn can be extremely uncomfortable. What causes it? When excessive acid escapes from your stomach and lands in your esophagus, it becomes irritated. The result is a burning sensation in your chest, just above your rib cage. Depending on the severity of the heartburn, it can feel pretty scary. How can you try to avoid it?

There are many known culprits of heartburn, with certain types of food being among the most likely suspects. If you’re prone to heartburn, consider avoiding these 7 foods:

  1. Garlic – There are a number of reasons you’d want to eat garlic (as a natural remedy, it may even help decrease high blood pressure and cholesterol), but its strong taste and pungent odor can lead to heartburn.

  2. Tomatoes – Naturally speaking, tomatoes are highly acidic. However, their acidity level multiplies when they’re used in dishes (such as in soups or sauces). If you want a tomato but are prone to heartburn, stick to fresh tomatoes that you eat halfway through your meal. That way, other food is already in the stomach, lessening the impact of the acid.

  3. Citrus Fruits – Oranges, lemons, limes, and grapefruits – as well as their juices – are common heartburn triggers. If you need to get your fruit fix in, consider low-acid citrus juice options.

  4. Spicy Foods – These are among the top offenders for heartburn. Even in small doses, you might find yourself in discomfort later in the night, so it’s wise to avoid these if you’re a regular heartburn sufferer.

  5. Peppermint – Peppermint is known to relax your stomach muscles and aid digestion. However, for heartburn sufferers, this relaxation can cause stomach acids to leak out and flow back up to the esophagus.

  6. Fatty Foods (Cheese/Nuts) – Foods that are high in fat do not digest as quickly as low-fat foods, so the food just builds up in the stomach and presses the digestive tract. This greatly increases your chances of heartburn.

  7. Chocolate – We saved this one for last for obvious reasons – who wants to avoid chocolate? However, chocolate includes caffeine, which is a heartburn trigger (particularly when consumed on an empty stomach). Aside from the caffeine, chocolate has the same relaxing effect in the digestive tract as peppermint (or alcohol, for that matter). This relaxation can result in an increased risk of stomach acid backing up into the esophagus. If you want to avoid this nasty side effect, limit your consumption to no more than two ounces at one sitting.

Heartburn may be avoided with some mindful eating habits

Being mindful of what you eat is an important step in decreasing heartburn symptoms and eliminating the condition altogether. Avoiding the 7 foods listed above is a good first step, but each person is unique; which means it’s important meaning there may be other foods that elicit a heartburn response in your body.

We recommend starting a food journal, so that you can determine which foods you should avoid in the future.