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What Foods Cause Heartburn and Indigestion? Prevent Acid Reflux by Avoiding These Foods

Updated on January 14, 2014

There are certain foods that can trigger heartburn. When you know what those foods are, you can prevent acid reflux attacks simply by not eating some things or by limiting how much of it you take in.

Heartburn can strike when you eat too much.
Heartburn can strike when you eat too much. | Source

Eating Too Much Can Give You Heartburn

While there are a number of foods that can cause acid build-up, eating too much of anything can increase the likelihood of heartburn. Having a full stomach is a leading cause of acid reflux and indigestion.

"Heartburn is most common after eating a large meal," WebMD reports. "A belly full of too much food stretches the stomach, causing you to feel 'stuffed.' Stomach stretching, or distention, puts pressure on the LES, the ring of muscle that keeps stomach acids from moving in the wrong direction. So juices from your last meal may come back to haunt you. This can happen when eating large amounts of any food, not just foods known to trigger your heartburn symptoms."

Foods with Acid Can Trigger Acid Reflux

Acid reflux happens when acid from the stomach backs up into the esophagus, so it isn't technically caused by what you eat. It's more that the foods you eat are causing the valve at the top of your stomach to relax. This is why, for those who suffer from regular heartburn, eating foods with a lot of acid in them should be among the main ones to avoid.

Some foods with high acid content are citrus fruits (such as lemons, oranges, grapefruits and pineapples), and anything in the tomato family. You should also try to limit your intake of foods high in fat. Fatty foods stick around in your digestive system longer, which causes your stomach to produce even more acid.

Citrus fruits like lemons can cause acid reflux.
Citrus fruits like lemons can cause acid reflux. | Source

Acid Reflux and Your Body

The things listed in this article are typical foods and drinks that have been known to cause heartburn. If you notice that you tend to have more acid reflux with one food/drink over another, then you should follow what your body is telling you. One person might not be able to eat even a bite of chocolate, while another person might not be bothered by it at all, so pay attention to your own triggers.

Heartburn and Foods You Love

When you start going through the list of things you should or shouldn't eat to stay healthy, you might begin to feel like you can't eat anything good. Opinions are divided about spicy foods, which many people love. Basically, if you're used to eating at your favorite Mexican restaurant without much trouble, then you should be okay.

Amit Bhan, MD, service chief of gastroenterology at Henry Ford Health System, in West Bloomfield, Michigan, says fat is more likely to blame, rather than the actual food. "Spices are associated with cooking in oil, so fat is probably more a reason than the spice itself."

Another food or treat that people love is chocolate. Sadly for many of us, chocolate is the worst food for those who have regular bouts of acid reflux. It has caffeine, it is high in fat, and it is high in cocoa. Some turn to dark chocolate, but it still has caffeine and cocoa, albeit with less fat. White chocolate might be the better alternative when your sweet tooth is calling.

Surprisingly, peppermint is said to be another heartburn trigger. "Peppermint tea, peppermint-oil capsules, and even peppermint candies are often used to settle upset stomachs," Health.com states, "but these remedies can backfire on people with GERD."

Alcohol has been known to stir up heartburn.
Alcohol has been known to stir up heartburn. | Source

Drinks That Can Burn

It isn't only foods that can trigger heartburn. Drinks can, too. As mentioned with fruits, any citrus fruit juices fall in the same category. Orange juice, grapefruit juice, and lemon juice can all start that firey sensation from your chest to your throat.

Other drinks that can cause acid reflux are alcohol (especially red wine), coffee and other drinks with caffeine like soda and tea. Hot chocolate might affect some people as well.

This isn't an extensive list of foods or drinks to avoid that will help prevent heartburn. More than anything, you should rely on your own experience.

"As soon as heartburn strikes, jot down what and how much you ate," writes Elaine Magee, dietitian and author of Tell Me What to Eat If I Have Acid Reflux. "Also keep track of foods you thought might cause trouble but don’t. That way you won’t have to eliminate foods unnecessarily."

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    • jpcmc profile image

      JP Carlos 3 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

      I have GERD and it's been messing with me for the past 2 years. The foods i used to love are now banned. Poor me. :(

    • T-X-2 profile image
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      Tammy 3 years ago from Louisiana

      I know how you feel. I love anything with milk chocolate, and I have had to cut back on it because of acid reflux. Poor me, too!

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