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Meal Planning Tips to Prevent Heartburn

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Updated June 06, 2014

Young man drinking water
Lucy Lambriex/Moment/Getty Images
Do you need tips to prevent heartburn? One of the leading triggers of heartburn is the food we eat. Since we all have to eat, we need ways to prevent food from causing heartburn. This involves good meal planning.

Make Wise Food Choices

Avoid foods and beverages that weaken the LES muscle
These include:
  • Chocolate
  • Peppermint
  • Caffeinated beverages
  • Alcohol
  • Fatty foods
  • Greasy or fried foods
Avoid foods and beverages that may irritate the esophagus
These include:
  • Citrus fruits and juices
  • Tomatoes and tomato-based products
  • Chili peppers
  • Black pepper
Eat smaller, more frequent meals
Eating large meals increases pressure in the stomach and against the LES muscle. Eating five or six small meals instead of three larger ones is better. And remember not to eat too quickly. Putting your fork or spoon down between bites can help you do this.

Avoid high-fat meals
High-fat foods tend to stay in the stomach longer.

Avoid spicy foods
Spicy foods are known to cause heartburn symptoms in many GERD patients.

Don't drink alcohol
Drinking alcohol before, during, or after meals can worsen heartburn because alcohol weakens the LES muscle.

After Meals

Don't smoke
Having that after-dinner cigarette can lead to an unpleasant episode of heartburn because the nicotine in the cigarette (and cigars or that favorite pipe tobacco) weakens the LES muscle.

Chew gum
Chewing gum after meals will stimulate saliva production. Saliva actually neutralizes stomach acid. It also increases peristalsis -- the contraction and relaxation of muscles that pushes food through the digestive tract and helps move stomach contents into the small intestine more quickly.

Drink water
Drinking a glass of lukewarm water or herbal tea after a meal can dilute and flush out stomach acid.

Sources:

American Journal of Gastroenterology, "Updated Guidelines for the diagnosis and Treatment of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease." The American College of Gastroenterology. 18 Oct 2007.

"Heartburn Or Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)." American College of Gastroenterology. 18 Oct 2007

"Information You Can Stomach: What are the Treatments for GERD?." American College of Gastroenterology. 18 Oct 2007.

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