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Avoiding Foods That Cause Heartburn

IMAGE Foods usually do not cause heartburn, but they can aggravate your condition and cause symptoms. Certain foods can cause symptoms by relaxing the lower esophageal sphincter, which allows digestive juices to splash up into the esophagus, causing irritation of the esophagus.

Everyone reacts to foods differently, so keep track of the foods you eat and how it affects you. Share this information with your doctor.

The foods that most commonly cause symptoms of heartburn include:

  • Acidic foods, such as:
    • Citrus foods, like oranges, grapefruits, and their juices
    • Tomatoes and tomato products
  • Fatty or greasy foods
  • Chocolates
  • Spicy foods
  • Alcohol
  • Caffeinated beverages, such as coffee, soda, or tea
  • Some herbal products, like peppermint tea

Try to avoid the following:

  • Eating within a few hours of your bedtime
  • Lying down after you eat
  • Overeating—consider eating smaller, more frequent meals spaced over the course of the day

If you are overweight, losing weight can reduce pressure on the esophagus, which can help relieve symptoms.

Smoking aggravates heartburn symptoms and greatly increases your risk of esophageal cancer (especially when combined with alcohol). Talk to your doctor about how you can successfully quit.

Resources

American Gastroenterological Association
http://www.gastro.org

International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders
http://www.aboutgerd.org

Canadian Resources

Canadian Institute for Health Information
http://www.cihi.ca

Health Canada
http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca

References

Acid reflux. The American College of Gastroenterology website. Available at: http://patients.gi.org/topics/acid-reflux. Accessed July 2, 2014.

Duyff RL. The American Dietetic Association's Complete Food & Nutrition Guide. 3rd ed. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc; 2006.

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated June 2, 2014. Accessed July 2, 2014.

Heartburn. Am Fam Physician. 2010;82(12):1452-1455. Available at: http://www.aafp.org/afp/2010/1215/p1452.html. Accessed July 2, 2014.