Preventing Heartburn: Foods to Eat and Avoid

June 5, 2024

Understanding Heartburn

Heartburn is a common condition characterized by a burning sensation in the chest, typically after eating, which may worsen at night or when lying down. It is caused by acid reflux, where stomach acid flows back into the esophagus. Frequent heartburn can be a symptom of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Preventing heartburn often involves making dietary and lifestyle changes.

Foods to Eat to Prevent Heartburn

Certain foods can help reduce the frequency and severity of heartburn by minimizing acid production and soothing the digestive tract. Incorporating low-acid fruits into your diet, such as bananas and melons, can be beneficial as they are gentle on the stomach and help coat the esophageal lining. Vegetables like spinach, kale, broccoli, and cauliflower are excellent choices because they are low in fat and sugar, making them easy on the digestive system. Potatoes, when boiled or baked, are also a good option.

Whole grains are another great addition to a heartburn-friendly diet. Oatmeal is a filling breakfast choice that does not cause acid reflux. Brown rice and whole grain bread help absorb stomach acid and reduce symptoms. Lean proteins, such as grilled or baked chicken and turkey, along with fish and seafood (avoiding fried preparations), are suitable for those looking to prevent heartburn. Egg whites, being low in fat, can be included as well.

Dairy alternatives like low-fat or skim milk are preferable to full-fat dairy products, which can aggravate heartburn. Almond milk, being naturally alkaline, can help neutralize stomach acid. Including healthy fats in moderation, such as nuts, seeds, and avocados, can be beneficial. Herbal teas, such as ginger tea and chamomile tea, are soothing choices that can help reduce stomach acid production and inflammation.

Foods to Avoid to Prevent Heartburn

Certain foods and beverages can trigger heartburn by increasing stomach acid production or relaxing the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). Acidic foods, such as citrus fruits and tomatoes (including tomato-based products like sauce, ketchup, and salsa), should be avoided. Spicy foods, including chili peppers and spicy sauces, can also trigger heartburn.

Fatty and fried foods are major culprits. Avoid deep-fried items like French fries and fried chicken, as well as fatty meats like sausage, bacon, and fatty cuts of beef or pork. High-fat dairy products, including butter and cream, can exacerbate heartburn symptoms.

Caffeinated and carbonated beverages, such as coffee, tea, soda, and energy drinks, can increase acid production and cause bloating, putting pressure on the LES. Alcoholic beverages, including wine, beer, and spirits, relax the LES and can increase acid production. Chocolate contains caffeine and other compounds that can trigger heartburn, so it is best avoided.

Mint, including peppermint and spearmint, can relax the LES, allowing acid to reflux into the esophagus. Additionally, raw onions and garlic are known to be problematic for many people with heartburn and should be consumed in moderation or avoided altogether.

By making thoughtful dietary choices and avoiding known triggers, individuals can manage and reduce the occurrence of heartburn, improving their overall digestive health and comfort. If heartburn persists despite dietary changes, it is important to consult with a healthcare provider to explore further treatment options and ensure there are no underlying conditions contributing to the symptoms.