What Foods Give You Heartburn? Foods to Relieve Heartburn

Amy20MD 1

Medical reviewed by Amy Rogers, MD MPH FACPM

Preventive Medicine, Public Health, Lifestyle Medicine, Pandemic Response, Global Health

Heartburn, the fiery chest sensation, is a real bother for anyone. The good news is that getting rid of it isn’t so hard: It’s all about what you eat!

So, what foods give you heartburn

In this article, we list all the potential heartburn triggers and give you alternative options. Many people have tweaked their diets, felt rejuvenated, lost weight, and freed themselves from heartburn!

What Foods Give You Heartburn Foods to Relieve Heartburn 01

What foods give you heartburn? 14 foods to watch out

You might have been consuming heartburn-triggering foods daily for months or even years, unaware that they’re worsening your heartburn. Avoiding these foods might take some effort and focus at first, but the payoff is worth it.

But firstly, what exactly is heartburn, and why should we deal with it?

What are heartburn and acid reflux?

Acid reflux is the underlying cause of heartburn. It happens when your stomach acid moves up into your esophagus, the tube linking the mouth and stomach (1, 2).

The lower esophageal sphincter (LES), a muscular valve that seals off the esophagus when food or liquid enters your stomach, is the main cause of acid reflux. When your LES weakens, relaxes, or doesn’t close tightly, stomach acid can reflux into the esophagus, triggering gastroesophageal reflux disease and heartburn (3, 4).

Heartburn—a burning sensation in the chest that may extend to the mouth, neck, or throat—is a common reflux symptom (1). Almost everyone experiences heartburn occasionally. But if it’s happening more often—two days a week or more—you should check for gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), a chronic and more severe form of acid reflux (1, 5, 6).

If left untreated, GERD can lead to nausea, trouble swallowing, throat discomfort, hoarseness, coughing, and chest tightness (7). Over time, the acid can irritate and inflame the lining of your sensitive esophagus, leading to a condition called Barrett’s esophagus. Barrett’s esophagus raises the risk of developing esophageal cancer. (1, 2, 5, 8).

What Foods Give You Heartburn Foods to Relieve Heartburn 02

Citrus fruits: Why acid matters

For people with acid reflux, the main culprit for worsening acid reflux and heartburn is dietary acid.

During reflux, pepsin, a protein-digesting enzyme, moves upward with stomach contents and can bind to the throat and esophagus for a long time. Since our cells are protein-based, pepsin can “digest” them, leading to prolonged heartburn, inflammation, erosions, and possibly ulcers and esophageal cancer (2, 3, 9, 10, 11). 

Pepsin switches between active and inactive states depending on the acidity. When it’s really acidic—below pH 4—pepsin becomes active, directly causing more inflammation and damage. It’s like adding fuel to the fire (2, 9, 10, 12).

Citrus fruits like oranges, lime, lemon, pineapple, prunes, grapes, and grapefruit are very acidic and should be avoided by people with acid reflux. But it’s not a hard and fast rule; you can still use them as a seasoning for raw meat (2, 3). For a safer option, try using sumac instead of lemon or citrus to add tanginess to your dishes. Sumac is rich in antioxidants and can help fight inflammation and many chronic diseases (13).

The tomato problems

While rich in antioxidants like lycopene, tomatoes are among the foods that give you heartburn due to their acidity, activating pepsin (1, 6). For some people, tomato sauce might cause discomfort, but fresh tomatoes may not (7).

Lycopene, a potent anti-cancer compound found in tomatoes, can also be found in red- and rose-colored fruits and vegetables. If you’re dealing with heartburn, go for (2):

  • watermelons (with 40 percent more lycopene per cup than raw tomatoes)
  • pink guavas
  • pink grapefruits
  • apricots
  • papayas
  • asparagus
  • purple cabbages
  • mangoes
  • carrots

Berries, apples, and pears can also trigger heartburn by stimulating pepsin. So, people with acid damage might want to give them a pass. Yet, you can still blend them with almond milk, soy milk, rice milk, or coconut milk in a smoothie. Non-dairy milk, with a pH of 6–8, provides a safe bet to enjoy your berries occasionally (2).

Popcorn and GERD: Does popcorn cause heartburn? 

Popcorn, especially packaged microwave popcorn, can trigger acid reflux because of its trans fat, sugars, and starch content. Some research suggests cutting back on sugar to prevent heartburn (3). 

After eating, sugars and starches start to break down in your small intestine. Then, bacteria in your gut ferment them, releasing hormones that could relax your LES and cause heartburn (3).

Also, it’s best to avoid sugary snacks like ice cream, cakes, cookies, and other processed foods with added sugar.

Heartburn from carbonated drinks 

Sugar is bad for heartburn, and high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), a type of sugar found in many carbonated drinks, is worse than other sugars. It’s made using sulfuric acid, a highly acidic substance. The chemicals used in the process can also weaken your LES and make your body more vulnerable to dietary mercury (2, 14, 15). 

It’s not just sodas; you should watch out for other sugary drinks like store-bought fruit juices, energy drinks, sports drinks, and anything with high-fructose corn syrup—they’re all potential heartburn triggers (1, 2).

Also, don’t be fooled by sugar-free options like:

They can still trigger heartburn. The carbonation process makes any drink more acidic and corrosive (3, 16, 17). Plus, the bubbles can double the stomach size. It’s like blowing up a balloon, pushing stomach contents into the nearby esophagus (2, 18).

In a study of over 15,000 US people, those who consumed carbonated soft drinks were 31 percent more likely to experience nighttime heartburn compared to those who skipped the soda (19). In short, it’s a good idea to cut back on carbonated drinks, whether it is for the sake of heartburn or not.

High-fat foods: Does butter cause heartburn?

Fatty, greasy, and fried foods tend to stick around in your stomach, giving stomach acid more time to go back up into your throat. Fat is also dense in calories, and high-fat meals may trigger the release of substances, irritating the esophagus and relaxing LES, setting the stage for heartburn (1, 3, 7, 20). 

So, does butter cause acid reflux? In moderation, it’s usually fine. But are you going heavy on butter, cheese, fatty meats, or fried foods? That could definitely trigger reflux by adding unhealthy fats and empty calories (2, 3, 6).

However, fat is still a vital macronutrient for your health, and studies looking at fat-acid reflux relationships have had mixed results. Importantly, no study has really looked into the different kinds of fat. So, healthy fat might actually be good for people with acid reflux (3). The big question is, which fats are the healthy ones?

When making a creamy dressing, toss in some tofu spread or avocado. If you crave fried goodness, try using (2, 21):

  • extra virgin olive oil (cold-pressed and unfiltered if available)
  • avocado oil
  • coconut oil
  • tallow
  • peanut butter

Note that not all plant oils are made equal. Seed oils like margarine, sunflower, safflower, canola, and sesame oil are acidic due to their extraction process (2, 22). More concerning, when you heat oils beyond 200°C, you’re basically turning those fats into trans fats, the most harmful fats (23).

Can spicy food cause heartburn?

Do peppers cause heartburn? Bell peppers are a bit acidic, so don’t go overboard—mix them with some leafy greens. However, spicy ones like red chili, white, black, or cayenne peppers can intensify heartburn by directly affecting sensory nerves (1, 6, 24).

Spicy peppers, hot sauces, and other fiery foods often contain a real irritant called capsaicin. When this compound meets and activates sensors in your esophagus, it can lead to discomfort, especially if your lining’s already inflamed (3, 25).

Note that if you are healthy, spicy foods are still fair game. In one study, after eating chili, people with GERD had a distended stomach—meaning more pressure on the LES—and felt more discomfort compared to when they didn’t eat chili. Yet, healthy people didn’t experience the same increase (26).

So, spice tolerance varies. If hot peppers and spicy foods give you heartburn, go easy on them. Consider swapping in fresh herbs like parsley, oregano, basil, star anise, and cloves. They’re gentler on the gut and capsaicin-free (3, 7).

Fast and processed foods: Hidden heartburn triggers

Here is a simple rule of thumb: The more processed the food, the more it can worsen acid damage and heartburn. In a study involving more than 2000 children, those who ate fast food were 78-83 percent more likely to have functional gastrointestinal disorders compared to those who did not eat fast food (27).

Most prepackaged, jarred, and canned foods are loaded with unhealthy fats, sugars, salts, spices, and additives, slowing digestion and keeping foods in your stomach longer, raising the risk of reflux and heartburn (28). 

Moreover, processed foods are often acidified for preservation, which can be hard to spot on the label. So, if you want to avoid heartburn, cooking at home is definitely the way to go (2, 29).

Some processed foods are better choices, like water-packed canned tuna or organic chickpeas and beans (2). You can opt for them for easy cooking without sacrificing health. But it’s best to skip potato chips, bacon, ham, canned vegetables, and even baby foods (6, 7).

GERD and bread: Why does bread give me heartburn? 

Does bread cause heartburn? Yes, sometimes. But will bread help heartburn? Surprisingly, yes. So, what’s the trick? It’s all about choosing the right kind of loaf.

The refining process makes wheat bread acidic and tough on digestion. Store-bought bread often contains HFCS, which is known for stirring up stomach acids and causing heartburn (30).

However, there isn’t clear clinical evidence linking bread to GERD risks. While having acid reflux from bread is usual, it’s always wise to choose:

  • Whole-wheat bread 
  • Bread made with whole grains, such as quinoa, millet, rye, oats, spelt, barley, and buckwheat
  • Multigrain bread
  • Ezekiel bread
  • Sprouted grain bread

Always scan the ingredients list to ensure your bread is free of preservatives and artificial flavors. Also, avoid adding tomato or spicy sauces, as well as greasy spreads.

Alcohol: A heartburn alert

Alcohol can amp up stomach acid by stimulating a hormone called gastrin. What’s intriguing, though, is that beers and wines, with their lighter alcohol content, really fire up gastrin, while heavier alcoholic drinks like whisky, gin, and cognac don’t have the same effect (2, 31).

Moreover, alcohol can slow down stomach emptying and relax your LES, making acid travel up and cause heartburn (2, 3). Plus, it weakens the muscles in your esophagus, making it easier for acid to cause inflammation and damage (2, 32).

A recent study revealed that there is a 48 percent higher risk of having GERD symptoms among drinkers compared to non-drinkers. Plus, the more often you indulge, the higher the risk climbs (33, 34).

Coffee and tea: Are they heartburn triggers?

Coffee has caffeine, a type of methylxanthine that has been proven to raise gastric acid and relax the LES, triggering heartburn and acid damage. Caffeine is also found in tea, sodas, chocolate, some desserts, and even decaffeinated coffee (2, 3, 4).

However, in one study that included 1837 participants, researchers found that drinking coffee or tea, with or without additives like milk or sugar, was not linked to reflux symptoms or esophageal inflammation (35). In addition, a large meta-analysis of published literature found no association between coffee and GERD (36).

Yet, it’s best to be cautious of sugary coffee or bottled iced tea with acidified preservatives. If you still need a pick-me-up but want to avoid caffeine, try these drinks. 

Can chocolate cause heartburn?

Does chocolate give you heartburn? Chocolate contains caffeine and theobromine from cocoa. Both compounds are methylxanthine, which can relax the LES and boost stomach acid, setting the stage for heartburn (3, 4, 37, 38).

Chocolate is rich in fat and sugar, both of which can promote heartburn and GERD (1, 39). Still, research is uncertain about whether chocolate is the real cause of GERD symptoms (25).

If you’ve got acid reflux, swap chocolate for carob—it’s GERD-friendly. This caffeine-free legume is packed with fiber and sweetness, giving you a tasty dessert option without heartburn (2, 38, 40).

Don’t overlook onion and garlic

Onions and garlic contain fructans, a type of FODMAPs—carbs quickly fermented by gut bacteria, causing gas and bloating. This can strain your LES and trigger heartburn in sensitive people (6, 41).

In a study, onions didn’t increase reflux in healthy people. But for those with acid reflux, eating onions led to more heartburn and other reflux symptoms compared to when they didn’t eat onions and compared to healthy people who did (42, 43).

For a tasty twist in your recipes, use the green part of spring onion or chives instead of onions. They’re quicker to cook, too. For a garlic kick, swap your regular oil for garlic-infused olive oil. Also, check out asafoetida powder, an Indian spice that, when cooked, tastes like sautéed onions and garlic (41).

For a flavorful twist, try ginger, cumin, cilantro, oregano, paprika, or saffron. They’re gentler options than onion or garlic, so your stomach will thank you!

Is mint a heartburn culprit?

Mint can loosen the LES, causing heartburn and increasing the risk of GERD. Research shows that people who drank peppermint tea daily were twice as likely to have GERD symptoms compared to those who didn’t (3, 25).

It’s worth noting that mint could trigger GERD for some people, but it seems it only bothers a few. In a study, only a minority of GERD patients had worsened symptoms with high mint consumption (3, 44).

So, if you’re dealing with acid reflux, it’s probably best to skip peppermint, spearmint, peppermint tea, and minty toothpaste (2, 6).

Apple cider vinegar: Friend or foe of heartburn?

Insufficient stomach acid can lead to acid reflux in some people. Low stomach acid can cause poor digestion, which causes increased gas bubbles, which can cause stomach acid to move up into and irritate your esophagus and throat (2, 45).

Some online tips suggest boosting stomach acid as a remedy for GERD, often recommending supplements like apple cider vinegar (ACV). While some people may feel relief from ACV, there’s no scientific proof of their effectiveness, and not everyone with GERD has low stomach acid. In fact, all vinegar is highly acidic and could worsen heartburn (2, 6, 7).

The decision to use ACV or not is yours if you know what triggers your reflux. But because it’s very acidic, never drink ACV at full concentration or on an empty stomach. Instead, mix a small amount with warm water and have it with meals (6).

Common foods that give you heartburn are acidic, spicy, sugary, fast, and processed foods. Drinks like alcohol and caffeinated beverages can also trigger heartburn. Be cautious of chocolate, mint, onion, and garlic.

If your stomach is healthy and you don’t go overboard, these foods might not trigger heartburn. Plus, plenty of alternatives are available, so don’t worry about keeping your diet heartburn-friendly.

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Other habits that can trigger heartburn

Diet greatly affects heartburn and acid reflux, but it’s not the only reason you might feel the burn. Other habits to watch out for include (1, 2, 3, 46):

  • Exercising right after eating 
  • Trying intense exercise involving jumping or being upside down
  • Eating within 3–4 hours before bedtime 
  • Eating a big, heavy, calorie-dense meal
  • Eating irregular meals (just 1–2 meals a day)
  • Eating too fast
  • Dining out too often
  • Wearing tight belts or snug clothes around the waist
  • Carrying extra weight
  • Smoking or using tobacco
  • Living with lots of stress.

However, there isn’t solid proof that avoiding trigger foods or habits helps with heartburn directly (37, 47). Instead of cutting out certain foods altogether, it’s better to tweak your meal size, timing, and nutrient mix. 

When eating out, go for steamed, roasted, baked, or grilled chicken or seafood instead of fried dishes. Also, raising your upper body in bed and regularly exercising could dial down heartburn. 

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Foods to relieve heartburn 

The best way to approach any diet is to focus on healthy foods rather than stressing over which foods to exclude.

To ease heartburn, choose foods that go easy on your stomach and LES, rich in fiber, water, and omega-3 fatty acids, and low in acidity.

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Myth debunked: The alkaline diet and heartburn

The alkaline diet gained popularity after the book “The pH Miracle” by Dr. Robert Young hit the shelves in the early 2000s. Dr. Young claimed this diet could balance the body’s pH, aid weight loss, and even cure conditions like GERD and cancer.

In 2017, Dr. Young was jailed for practicing medicine without a license. One patient paid thousands of dollars for his alkaline cancer treatment, which involved injecting baking soda into her veins. She tragically passed away after three months of treatment (48, 49).

Although Young’s credibility has been widely discredited, the idea of an alkaline diet still holds sway (48). Also known as the “pH diet” or “alkaline ash diet,” it suggests that foods, when digested, leave behind a metabolic waste or “ash” that can be (50, 51):

  • Acidic, like processed foods, meat, eggs, cheese, alcohol, beans, nuts, and grains
  • Neutral, like milk, fats, and sugars
  • Alkaline, like fruits, vegetables, and seeds

The diet suggests acidic foods leave acidic “ash” in your blood, leading to illness (50, 52). However, for people with GERD and heartburn, this theory overlooks that foods themselves—not their “ash”—can harm the esophagus by triggering pepsin. 

A GERD-friendly diet should aim to reduce pepsin’s effects—tissue damage and inflammation—rather than altering blood or body pH. So, the alkaline diet isn’t suitable for acid reflux, as it doesn’t know how pepsin is triggered (2, 52). In fact, this diet is not ideal for anyone to try. 

Blood pH

If blood pH can change, as the alkaline diet claims, even eating an orange would kill you (53). Our body maintains a strict acid-base balance, with blood pH ranging from 7.2 to 7.4. To regulate this balance, our kidneys and lungs eliminate excess acid through urine and carbon dioxide (2, 50, 53). 

Some people on the alkaline diet check their urine pH with dipsticks, believing it reflects how well the diet works. But really, it just shows their kidneys are working. Therefore, the main claim of the diet is considered pseudoscience (2, 52).

Nutrient deficiencies

The alkaline diet proposes that animal protein and grains leave behind an acidic “ash” and should be limited. However, restricting these foods can result in missing out on vitamins, minerals, and compounds that help reduce inflammation and keep your hormone balance (2, 3, 54). 

Simply put, if not carefully planned (which can be costly), the alkaline diet is a fast track to nutrient deficiencies, muscle loss, pain, fatigue, and cravings for sugar or salt. Thus, prioritizing alkaline foods is sadly a waste of time (52). 

Top nutrients for heartburn

One key to relieving heartburn is eating more fiber, which has long been known to improve digestion (3, 55). Simply put, fiber acts like a broom, sweeping waste from your gut. Plus, eating fiber helps you feel fuller, aiding weight loss. All these perks can help with heartburn (2, 6, 56).

For acid reflux and heartburn, opt for high-fiber, low-FODMAP, low-acidity foods from (6, 57, 58):

  • Whole grains: oatmeal, quinoa, couscous
  • Root vegetables: sweet potatoes, carrots, and beets
  • Green vegetables like asparagus, cabbage, broccoli, fennel
  • Fruits, especially when eaten whole with the peel
  • Lentils, green beans, and nuts

Another important nutrient for heartburn is omega-3 fatty acids, which can fight inflammation and might have therapeutic potential for acid damage (57, 59). Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in seafood, fatty fish, flaxseeds, chia seeds, and walnuts.

Top foods for heartburn

Gingers

For centuries, ginger root has been a remedy for heartburn, indigestion, nausea, and vomiting by blocking receptors in the intestines (60, 61). With its alkaline and anti-inflammatory properties, ginger tea can help soothe any irritation in your esophagus (6).

Ginger is known for its digestion-promoting (prokinetic) properties, which may inhibit stomach acid—a common cause of heartburn (57, 60, 62). Studies suggest that gingerols, compounds found in ginger, contribute to this effect (63, 64).

To soothe heartburn, try a cup of homemade ginger tea, ginger supplements, or a pack of ginger gum.

Bananas

Sweet fruits like bananas, mangoes, pomegranates, and raisins contain natural sugar, but that doesn’t mean you should avoid them. They provide essential fiber, vitamins, and minerals to combat heartburn (2). 

Bananas, in particular, contain pectin, a soluble fiber that helps keep food moving smoothly through the digestive tract. This effect helps lower acid production and reduce the risk of heartburn (57, 65).

Being low in acid and high in potassium, bananas can help neutralize stomach acid (66). Eating fresh bananas can also create a protective coating on the delicate esophageal lining, strengthening the defenses against reflux (57). 

Bananas are also a good source of vitamin B6 and B9, which can help shield you from reflux-related conditions like Barrett’s esophagus and esophageal cancer (67, 68).

Watermelons

As its name implies, watermelons are mostly water—about 92 percent! Their water content can help dilute stomach acid and soothe reflux and heartburn. Also, packed with minerals, fibers, and electrolytes, watermelon are perfect for cooling off any burning sensation. The bonus point? This healthy dessert option is non-acidic and almost fat-free (69).

Other watery foods that can ease heartburn are cantaloupe, celery, cucumber, zucchini, cauliflower, lettuce, broth-based soups, and herbal tea (2, 6).

Papayas

Eating ripe papayas or drinking their juice can help digestion and ease GERD symptoms like heartburn, thanks to enzymes like papain that break down proteins and reduce inflammation and stomach acid (57, 70, 71).

Papayas are an excellent source of vitamins A and C, which are the potent antioxidants that can help with heartburn-related inflammation (72, 73, 74). 

Additionally, papaya is non-acidic and almost entirely fat and cholesterol-free, making it a sodium-gentle-on-the-stomach snack (72).

Leafy green vegetables

Leafy greens are rich in alkalizing nutrients and fiber and low in salt, sugar, fat, and calories. They can support digestion and heartburn and offer antioxidants to combat inflammation caused by acid  (2, 57). 

Research shows that pregnant women who eat green vegetables are 15 times less likely to get heartburn compared to non-consumers. And the more often they eat them, the lower the risk (75).

Some leafy vegetables, such as artichoke, spinach, broccoli, kale, collard greens, asparagus, and Brussels sprouts, pack more fiber than others. You’ll find more fiber in the dark, leafy veggies compared to the lighter ones. 

Lean proteins

Protein is essential for any healthy diet. However, it’s important to eat red meat and processed meat in moderation (2). Leaner options like skinless poultry, fish, and tofu, which are lower in fat, can help reduce heartburn (57). 

Eggs are great for protein, but the yolks are fatty. Stick to the egg whites for maximum benefits. Just keep in mind that eggs contain lysozyme, which can cause allergies (76). If you’re not allergic, egg whites are still a top pick for a heartburn-friendly meal.

Oatmeal

Grab a bowl of oatmeal; you’re already getting 40 percent of your fiber, and 26 percent of your protein needs for the whole day—both can help with heartburn. Oatmeal’s beta-glucan fiber contributes to its soothing effect on the stomach (57, 77, 78).

Eating fiber-rich foods like oatmeal also brings a bundle of vitamins, minerals, and other beneficial compounds. These nutrients may help shield your esophageal tissues from heartburn-related harm (2).

Start your day with a hearty bowl of oatmeal with banana, plump raisins, and a sprinkle of cinnamon for flavor (7). Don’t forget to avoid instant oatmeal—it’s more acidic than the whole-grain kind due to processing (2).

Almonds

Almonds are high in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, protein, and fiber. They easily promote satiety and keep you from overeating. Protein and fiber are strong digestive aids, while healthy fats in almonds can help neutralize stomach acid (57). 

Nuts and seeds—like almonds, cashews, peanuts, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds—are rich in magnesium. If you’re low on magnesium, it can slow down stomach emptying, pressuring the LES and triggering reflux (79, 80). So, snacking on almonds could help keep heartburn away.

Just a heads-up: almonds are loaded with fats. While they are good for you, excess amounts can trigger heartburn, so stick to moderation.

Avocados

Avocados—with a pH of 7.12—are less acidic compared to most fruits, making them a good pick for heartburn and acid reflux (2). They’re rich in healthy fats like oleic acid, which is good for both heart and gut health (81).

Avocados are also packed with fiber (24 percent DV in 100 g), antioxidants, potassium, magnesium, vitamin E, C, K, B6, and B9 (82). These nutrients are like your bodyguards against heartburn—they soothe acid-related inflammation and strengthen your LES to stop heartburn before it even starts.

Beans

When your digestion isn’t working well, issues like constipation, gas, or bloating can increase pressure on the LES, leading to heartburn. With their high fiber and lean protein content, beans can speed up transit time and prevent constipation (2, 56).

Beans are also full of potassium, magnesium, folate, and zinc—all goodies that help with heartburn, as we discussed earlier (83). 

Note that if you struggle with bloating or IBS, it’s best to skip beans. They contain oligosaccharides, a type of FODMAPs that can be hard to digest (84).

Aloe vera 

Aloe vera has a traditional history of soothing the digestive system. This is because aloe vera provides enzymes that aid in breaking down sugars and fats (57, 85). Plus, aloe vera contains aloin and emodin, which promote bowel movements and may help with constipation (86).

Aloe vera is also well-known for its anti-inflammatory and wound-healing properties (87), which may help calm acid-related damage in the esophagus for people with GERD.

Drinking a small amount of pure aloe vera juice before meals might ease heartburn. Aloe vera is also believed to alleviate symptoms of ulcers and GERD (88). 

Yogurt and kefir

Yogurt and kefir, if not too sour, can ease acid reflux thanks to their probiotics (57, 89). Probiotics support immune function and gut microbiome, which can help boost digestion and balance stomach acid, potentially reducing heartburn (90, 91).

Probiotics contain protein and can calm stomach discomfort, often giving you a soothing sensation. Opting for low-fat yogurt and kefir can be better for gut health, especially in the face of acid reflux, compared to full-fat options (57, 92).

Watch out for low-fat yogurt or kefir from stores—they are often full of sugar. In a small cup, you could consume nearly five teaspoons of sugar. When fat is removed, manufacturers often add extra sugar or artificial flavors to compensate for the fat’s rich flavor, making the foods highly acidic.

Some herbs and spices

When heartburn strikes, try brewing some soothing herbal tea with licorice root, marshmallow root, chamomile, dandelion root, slippery elm, catnip, fenugreek, or fennel. These traditional remedies might work wonders (57, 61).

Don’t overlook the power of spices like turmeric, cinnamon (verum), and fennel seeds for heartburn (57, 61, 93). But remember, herbal remedies aren’t always FDA-approved, so it’s best to check with your healthcare provider before using them (54).

You’re all set with the ultimate lineup of heartburn-fighting foods! In short, they should be whole foods rich in fiber, protein, healthy fats, and antioxidants but they should not be acidic.

For a quick breakfast, try low-fat yogurt with fruit or nuts, eggs, whole-grain toast, or chilled oatmeal with fruit or yogurt. Come lunchtime, go for salads with chicken or beans, and use a yogurt-based dressing instead of vinegar and citrus (7).

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Does sugar neutralize stomach acid?

No, sugar can even boost stomach acid production. Plus, when you eat sugar, gut bacteria can ferment it, releasing compounds that can relax your LES and let stomach acid creep back up into your mouth. So, if you’re having stomach acid issues, it’s best to avoid sugary foods (3).

Can turkey cause heartburn?

No, turkey is not typically a heartburn culprit on its own. But if it’s fried or cooked with sweet or spicy stuff, watch out and practice moderation. Plus, during big meals like holiday feasts, where turkey’s the star, overeating or having other foods can squeeze your stomach and cause heartburn.

Do beans cause acid reflux?

Beans usually don’t trigger acid reflux, but they can sometimes. They’ve got FODMAPs, which might be hard to digest for people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or serious acid reflux (94). These people can have more gas and bloating after eating beans, worsening acid reflux.
 
But beans are great for most people—they’re full of fiber and protein, which can help with digestion and ease acid reflux.

Does avocado cause heartburn?

No, avocados are very low in acidity and can be your pals when it comes to heartburn (2). They are rich in fat, but most are healthy fats to keep your digestion healthy. Plus, with their high fiber and antioxidant content, avocados can be a creamy treat for calming inflammation caused by heartburn.

Can nuts cause heartburn?

Yes, nuts can sometimes cause heartburn, but it’s not common. The high-fat content in nuts can relax the LES, making way for acid reflux and heartburn in sensitive people (1, 6).
 
Also, nuts are often seasoned or roasted with spices or oils that can add to the burn. And let’s face it, nuts are pretty tasty, so it’s easy to go overboard and put more strain on your stomach.

Can salt cause heartburn?

Eating too much salt can make you retain water and feel bloated, possibly making heartburn worse. Research suggests that people with GERD may have more esophageal inflammation if they consume high amounts of salt (95). However, for healthy people, overdoing it with salt usually doesn’t lead to heartburn.

Keep in mind that salty foods are often fried or processed, which usually comes with unhealthy fats and additives. Plus, extreme processing can strip away nutrients and make these foods highly acidic (2, 28).

Summary

What foods give you heartburn? Acidic, spicy, sugary, fast, and processed foods are the usual suspects. Drinks like alcohol and caffeinated beverages can also light the fire. If you have GERD, be cautious with chocolate, mint, onion, and garlic.

Are you considering cutting out these foods to prevent heartburn? If your stomach’s in good shape and you’re not going overboard, they might not cause any trouble. Plus, our bodies often like greater variety. So, take a look at our list, know your heartburn triggers, and go for moderate portions.

We’ve got plenty of heartburn-friendly options for you. Stick to whole foods full of fiber, protein, healthy fats, and antioxidants—minus the acidic ones. Also, be mindful of habits like exercising, lounging post-meal, and smoking.

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Amy20MD 1

Medical reviewed by Amy Rogers, MD MPH FACPM

Preventive Medicine, Public Health, Lifestyle Medicine, Pandemic Response, Global Health

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