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Avoiding Foods That Cause Heartburn

How Some Foods Can Increase the Risk of Acid Reflux


Updated June 06, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

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Are you avoiding foods that cause heartburn? These foods can trigger different responses from the body that allow heartburn to happen.

Heartburn occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) -- the passageway from your esophagus to your stomach -- relaxes inappropriately and food comes back upward, or when the stomach produces too much acid and this is refluxed into the esophagus.

The following list will give you examples of foods that relax the LES or produce stomach acid and gas.

Foods that can relax the LES:

  • Fried (greasy) foods
  • High fat meats
  • Butter and margarine
  • Mayonnaise
  • Creamy sauces
  • Salad dressings
  • Whole-milk dairy products
  • Chocolate
  • Peppermint
  • Caffeinated beverages (e.g. soft drinks, coffee, tea, cocoa)

Foods that may stimulate acid production and increase heartburn:

  • Caffeinated beverages
  • Carbonated beverages
  • Alcohol
  • Spicy foods
  • Black pepper
  • Citrus fruit and juices (e.g. orange, grapefruit)
  • Tomato juice

Of course, everyone is different, so a food diary can be helpful in determining which specific foods are problematic for you.

It is also important to remember that when you eat and how much you eat can also play a role in the occurrence of heartburn. Eating too close to bedtime, or eating a too large of a meal later at night, can contribute to nighttime heartburn. For more information, you can read about preventing nighttime heartburn.

Preventing heartburn when eating has much to do with preparation and how you eat. It isn't just about what foods you eat. You can follow some meal planning tips to prevent heartburn.

Other resources for a heartburn-free diet:

Peikin, M.D., Steven R.. Gastrointestinal Health. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers, Inc., 2004.


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