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Foods That Can Trigger Heartburn

Do you get a sharp pain in the chest after your meals? Are you finding it difficult to catch your breath and have day-time headaches? Do you have an uncomfortable burning sensation in the throat after you wake up?

These are all the top signs of heartburn and acid reflux [1]. This can occur due to various reasons like gastroesophageal reflux disease or you might have partied a little too hard the last night. Reflux can also be caused due to the lack of stomach acids or too little stomach acid in the system [2].

Long-term use of acid reflux medications is linked to vitamin deficiencies and this can also increase the risk of osteoporosis [3]. Simple changes to your diet and lifestyle can help relieve the symptoms of acid reflux and heartburn effectively. In this article, we have listed the top foods that can cause heartburn and acid reflux. Read further to know about them.


1. Soft Drink And Carbonated Beverage

A major cause of heartburn, sodas and beverages that are carbonated can provoke the attack of acid in the stomach by relaxing the oesophagal sphincter and hence increasing the acidity of stomach acid [4]. Instead of gulping down a glass of soda, go for regular water or protein shake.

Carbonated drinks are one of the major causes of nighttime heartburns, studies point out [5].


2. Citrus Juice

Grapefruit and oranges are known to be the top foods that cause heartburn, especially when eaten in their original form [6]. Although the specific reason behind this is still not clear, several studies have found that drinking pure citrus juice can cause heartburn [7].


3. Gluten

Gluten can aggravate the stomach as well as the digestive system and can further trigger systematic inflammation, autoimmune disease, etc. Studied have linked people with peptic diseases such as GERD, heartburn and ulcer to have gluten sensitivity [8].


4. Peppermint

Peppermint can actually increase the symptoms of heartburn. If you have the habit of popping peppermint after your meals, it's high time that you stopped the habit, as it can increase your risk of heartburn [9].

Although they are ‘known' to soothe the digestive system, studies have found that high doses of mint can trigger heartburn and acid reflux [10][11].


5. Chocolate

As heartbreaking as it can be, chocolate can cause heartburn. Consuming chocolate can cause the stomach acid to escape into the oesophagus, as the chocolate relaxes the oesophagal sphincter [12]. In addition, the serotonin content, too, is said to relax the lower oesophagal sphincter [13].


6. Fried And Fatty Food

If you're going for fatty foods, then you can go for healthy fats like coconut oil and omega-3 rich foods. These can also heal your gut [14]. But highly fried or deep-fried foods can again trigger the condition of heartburn and acid reflux [15].


7. Onion

Raw onions have been linked with heartburn, where studies point out that onions may relax the lower oesophagal sphincter [16]. Also, onions are rich sources of fermentable fibre, which may cause belching - which can trigger heartburn and acid reflux [17].


8. Alcohol

You might have noticed that heartburn goes along with hangovers [18]. Alcohol is known to be disastrous for heartburn and hence you need to be careful with your drinking. You can instead go for a glass of wine to relax in the night.


9. Coffee

Coffee contains high acidic content and also caffeine, which means the oesophagus will feel like it's lit on fire, after a cup of joe [19]. The best you can do is to minimize the amount you consume and also try to go for unsweetened coffee. It is considered as one of the top foods that can trigger heartburn as coffee also has been shown to relax the lower oesophagal sphincter [20].


10. High-fat Food

If you have acid reflux, then it is considered best to give up on high-fat products like cheese, butter, nuts, avocado etc. These high-fat foods can relax the lower oesophagal sphincter and cause heartburn [21]. Also, high-fat foods are proven to release of the hormone cholecystokinin - which too can relax the lower oesophagal sphincter [22].


11. High-fat Meat

Acid reflux can also be triggered by having high-fat meats like beef, pork, lamb, etc. These stay in the stomach for longer hours and this increases the chance of acid reflux [23]. Try reducing your intake of high-fat meat and instead go for it once a week if you are already suffering from acid reflux or heartburn.


12. Spicy Food

A common cause of heartburn, spicy foods normally contain a compound called capsaicin, which may slow the rate of digestion - causing the food to stay in the intestine for a longer period of time and increasing the risk of heartburn and acid reflux [24].


13. Salt

Consuming large quantities of salt can lead to heartburn and acid reflux [25]. According to a study, people who added table salt to their meals had a 70 per cent higher risk of reflux than people who never added salt [26].


14. Tomato

If heartburn is a recurring problem for you, then tomatoes are to be blamed for. Hence, it is recommended to go easy on your tomato consumption and replace this in your diet with other vegetables. It is one of the top foods that can cause heartburn and acid reflux.

Tomatoes contain two types of acids, malic and citrus, that can trigger heartburn when consumed on a regular basis [27].


On A Final Note…

A common and often overlooked condition, heartburn is a symptom of acid reflux. Many foods can cause heartburn by relaxing the lower oesophagal sphincter, hence, discuss with your doctor regarding a diet plan that does not involve foods that could cause this.

You can also keep a record of the types of foods you eat and the ones that trigger heartburn. Add food such as ginger, bananas, melons, oatmeal, grains, potatoes to help relieve heartburn.


Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What should I eat if I have heartburn?

A. Vegetables are naturally low in fat and sugar, ginger, egg whites, oatmeal, non-citrus fruits etc.

Q. What can heartburn be a sign of?

A. Heartburn is actually a symptom of GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) and is caused by acid refluxing back into the oesophagus.

Q. Does bread cause heartburn?

A. Yes. For your daily carbohydrate intake, eat vegetables and fruits instead of bread, pasta, cereal, crackers and baked goods.

Q. Can yoghurt help with heartburn?

A. Yoghurt has a soothing effect that helps keep stomach discomfort at bay.

Q. Does drinking water help heartburn?

A. Drinking water can provide relief as it can neutralize the acid and relieve the symptoms.

Q. What gets rid of heartburn fast?

A. Wearing loose clothing, standing up straight, elevating your upper body, eating ginger,
sipping apple cider vinegar or chewing gum to help dilute acid.

Story first published: Saturday, March 14, 2020, 23:16 [IST]
Read more about: heartburn acid reflux gas