Eating should be enjoyable and pleasurable. But sometimes, the gratification we get from eating can be ruined by foods that causes heartburn. Heartburn can be experienced by anyone and normally happens after eating.
Heartburn is a burning pain that we feel just right behind our chest bone. This normally occurs after a meal and sometimes can be mistaken as a heart attack symptom. Heartburn occurs when stomach acids produced during digestion reflux back into the esophagus.
What causes Heartburn?
Heartburn is normally triggered by the type and amount of food we eat.
In the process of digestion, the food travels from the mouth to the stomach through a tube called the esophagus. When the food gets into the stomach, the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) tightens to prevent food and stomach acid from refluxing into your esophagus.
LES is a special group of circular muscles located in between the esophagus and stomach. When the lower esophageal sphincter relaxes, nothing prevents the acids produced by the stomach from going back or creeping up to your throat. This process is called acid reflux.
Acid reflux is mainly the reason why heartburn occurs. There are some cases though that acid reflux may not cause heartburn. But definitely heartburn will not take place without having acid reflux. (Read more about Heartburn Causes)
Symptoms of Heartburn
Heartburn is common to almost everyone. One of the main symptoms of heartburn is the uncomfortable burning pain we feel behind our chest bones. This is normally accompanied by:
- A feeling of food stuck in the throat or
- Water brash, sour taste at back end of the throat
- It also causes hoarseness or coughing episodes
When symptoms of heartburn are accompanied with shortness of breath, cold sweat or dizziness, and/or radiation to the neck or arms, medical attention should be immediately provided. Proper medical evaluation and care can prevent further health issues and complications.
Heartburn is mainly triggered by the type of food we eat. Thus, it is essential that we identify these foods that causes heartburn so we can avoid them. Here is a list of food you must avoid to prevent heartburn.
- Alcohol. Alcoholic drinks such as beer or red wine are great triggers of heartburn. These types of drinks have high alcohol content that promotes acid reflux. Alcohol causes the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) to relax. Relaxed LES causes stomach acids to creep up into the esophagus, causing heartburn.
- Fried Food. One of the most common foods that causes heartburn massively are fried foods. Due to high fat and oil content, fried foods are difficult to digest, causing the stomach to produce more acid to aid digestion. In effect, fried foods stay in the stomach longer than usual; making it full, which increases the risk of acid reflux and heartburn.
- Spicy Food. Spicy foods make almost every mouth water. However, for those who are frequently experiencing heartburn, it is something that you need to avoid. Spicy foods add too much acid in the stomach that cause acid reflux and heartburn. Spicy foods also cause LES to relax, resulting to acid reflux. If you can’t completely avoid it, make sure to limit your consumption.
- Tomatoes. Though tomatoes are healthy and beneficial to our body, it is considered as one of the foods that causes heartburn because of its high acid content. Fresh tomatoes, canned tomatoes, or any tomato-based sauce for pasta and pizza can greatly encourage acid reflux. If it can’t be avoided, you might want to lessen the amount you are consuming to prevent or avoid acid reflux and heartburn.
- Oranges. Who does not want oranges? Aside from its sweet and refreshing taste, it also has a lot of health benefits. But for people who are prone to acid reflux and heartburn, oranges and other citrus fruits are foods to avoid. Because of high acidity, oranges or citrus fruits can massively trigger acid reflux and heartburn. Instead of oranges or citrus fruits, you might want to consider other fruits which are rich in alkaline such as melon, banana, pears, and apples.
- Mint. Many of us loves mint-flavored tea and candies. Mint is an herb known to help settle and control an upset stomach. However, mint is not beneficial for acid reflux because it relaxes the LES, causing acid to reflux to your esophagus. Instead of mint-flavored tea, you might want to drink ginger tea as it has properties that can counterbalance the stomach acid.
- Beef. Who can live without meat or beef in particular? Maybe some, but majority of us loves beef. But for people with reoccurring acid reflux, this might be one of the foods that causes heartburn in you. Most cuts of beef have high fat content that can trigger an acid reflux. Examples of these are T-bone, fillet mignon, and porterhouse. If you can’t avoid eating beef, choose cuts that have low fat content such as eye of round, top sirloin, top round, or sirloin tip.
- Coffee. For coffee lovers, if you are experiencing acid reflux and heartburn, blame it on the cups of coffee you consume every day. Coffee is one of the foods that causes heartburn because of its high acid content. Overconsumption of coffee will definitely trigger acid reflux and heartburn. Consider moderate consumption if you cannot completely remove it from your diet.
- Cheese. Cheese, by nature, contains high fat. They are hard to digest and stays in the stomach longer than other foods. This makes the stomach increase acid production which could trigger acid reflux. Foods with high fat content can also cause the lower esophageal sphincter to relax, promoting stomach acid to creep back to the esophagus. As a result, we experience heartburn. Examples of cheese that has high fat contents are cream cheese, stilton, parmesan, Gouda, and cheddar.
- Soda. Carbonated drinks are main triggers of acid reflux. The bubbles created by carbonation can make your stomach full and expand. This increases stomach pressure that will result to reflux. Decreasing or not drinking soda at all can definitely help prevent acid reflux and heartburn.
- Chocolate. If you regularly suffer from heartburn, chocolate is a bad food for you. Chocolates are high in fat which are difficult to digest. It also has caffeine that relaxes the lower esophageal sphincter which promotes acid to reflux to your esophagus and create heartburn.
- Garlic. Though some people find it beneficial to consume garlic to settle an upset stomach, for some, it could be one of the foods that causes heartburn. Garlic, so as onion, contains high level of acid which can greatly contribute to acid reflux.
- Salt and Pepper. We use salt and pepper to our food almost every day. But do you know that these two staple food ingredients can trigger heartburn? Pepper is an ingredient used for added spice and too much of it can trigger acid reflux. On the other hand, a study shows that people with a high salt diet are more prone to acid reflux and heartburn.
- Butter. Just like cheese, butter is one of the most common foods that cause heartburn. Butter is high in fat and calories. Cooking or frying your food with butter or oil can make your food cause acid reflux and heartburn. Instead of using butter or oil, why not just grill or steam meat to reduce oil? Avoid adding butter to cook vegetables. Instead, use herbs for a more natural flavor.
- Candy. Candy is one of the many foods that causes heartburn. It is not known to many that candy and other foods that contain high sugar can increase stomach acid. Aside from sugar, candies also have preservatives that can worsen acid reflux and heartburn.
10 Foods to Eat for Heartburn
While there are many foods that causes heartburn, there are also a variety of foods you can eat to ease or prevent it. Here are ten foods to eat for heartburn.
- Banana or apple. These fruits, banana and apple, contain natural antacids that can help block acid reflux and avoid heartburn. If you want a healthy and natural way to combat acid reflux, try eating one banana a day. You can also try eating one apple few hours before going to bed and experience the comfort it can bring to your stomach and the esophagus.
- Almonds. These nuts are not just delicious and tasty. Almonds have natural properties that can counterbalance acids in your stomach. Eating a couple of almonds after every meal can reduce the chances of acid reflux and heartburn.
- Ginger tea. Homemade ginger tea is another thing you can take to ease and prevent heartburn. Ginger is not just an ordinary kitchen spice. It can prevent and cure various stomach issues such as acid reflux because of its gastro-protective effect. All you need to do is to slice 3 quarter-sized ginger into thin and small pieces and let boil in 2 cups of water for about 30 minutes. Cool it down to tolerable temperature and have a sip of your homemade ginger tea. Drinking this tea at least 20 minutes before a meal can prevent acid reflux and heartburn.
- Chamomile tea. Acid reflux, which causes heartburn, can be triggered by stress. A cup of chamomile tea before going to bed has a calming effect that can relieve stress and prevent acid reflux. Aside from that, chamomile tea can also help ease and lessen stomach inflammation and balance acidity levels in the stomach.
- Oatmeal. Aside from being a good source of protein and fiber, oatmeal has properties that can counterbalance acid. Eating oatmeal for breakfast or snack can help absorb stomach acid.
- Mustard. It might not be a favorite of many, but mustard can bring quick heartburn relief to everyone. Mustard is an alkalizing food and it has lots of minerals. It also has a weak type of acid from its vinegar content. These alkaline properties that mustard has can neutralize and counterbalance acids produced by the stomach during digestion. All it takes is a spoonful of mustard, and the acids creeping up from your stomach to your esophagus will be calmed down, warding off heartburn.
- Aloe juice. Look for aloe juice for internal use. It has a soothing effect that can reduce inflammation and ward off acid reflux. All you need is a half-cup of aloe juice before meals. Aloe juice is easy to find and mostly available in supermarkets.
- Coconut water. Drinking coconut water can help counterbalance acids in the stomach.
- Fennel and Fennel seeds. Fennel has a 6.9 pH level and is good for acid reflux. The bottom white part of it can be sliced thinly and mixed with arugula and baby spinach and makes a healthy salad. Fennel are also good when used with chicken dishes. On the other hand, fennel seeds have properties that can help counterbalance stomach acids. In a cup of boiling water, add 2 teaspoon of fennel seeds. Let it sit for 10 minutes. Drink it with or without sugar.
- Melon. Melon, which normally contains a 6.1 pH level is definitely good in controlling or preventing acid reflux. Other fruits good for acid reflux are honeydew, cantaloupe, and watermelon.
- Chicken and turkey. Poultry meat should be a part of your acid reflux diet. These types of meat can be grilled or boiled. Avoid frying it as it can increase fat content. Also, remove skin as this part is full of fat that can increase risk of acid reflux.
- Fish and seafood. Seafood and fish should be staples in your acid reflux diet. Though, these foods should only be boiled, grilled, or sautéed; not fried. This includes shrimps, lobster, shellfish, and naturally and organically raised fish.
Something to Take Note
Our diet plays an important role in controlling and preventing heartburn. The foods that causes heartburn should be avoided as much as possible, while the foods that can help prevent heartburn should be consumed as often as possible. There are variety of foods that may not have been listed above so it is also important that you make a list of those which can trigger or ease your heartburn.