Heartburn can occur when the lower esophageal sphincter, or LES -- the passageway from your esophagus to your stomach -- relaxes and your food comes back upward from your stomach into your esophagus. Heartburn can also happen when your stomach produces too much acid and it is refluxed into the esophagus.
The following items are 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
- Creamy sauces
- Salad dressings
- Whole-milk dairy products
- Caffeinated beverages (e.g., soft drinks, coffee, tea, cocoa)
Foods that may stimulate acid production and increase heartburn:
- Caffeinated beverages
- Carbonated beverages
- 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 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 isn't just about what foods you eat -- it also has much to do with how you prepare your food and how you eat it. You can follow some meal planning tips to prevent heartburn.
Magee, Elaine: Tell Me What to Eat If I Have Acid Reflux. Book-mart Press: New Page Books, 2001, ISBN: 1564145743.
Peikin, M.D., Steven R.. Gastrointestinal Health. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers, Inc., 2004.
Sklar, Jill and Cohen, Annabel: Eating for Acid Reflux: Marlowe & Company; Imprint of Avalon Publishing Group, Inc. 2003, ISBN: 1569244928.