Heartburn: What to Eat and What to Avoid

You make it through your final bites of that spicy Cajun burger and then it hits. Your chest begins to feel like it’s burning from the inside-out, causing you to clutch your chest in discomfort. That’s when you know heartburn has struck again. For more than 60 million Americans, this experience occurs at least once a month – daily for 15 million.

person pressing on chest

While heartburn is usually not a cause for alarm, it can be sudden and cause quite a bit of discomfort. In most cases, making lifestyle changes may help, such as making small adjustments to your diet.

Certain foods leave behind digestive acid in your esophagus – the tunnel-like tube that food travels through to get to your stomach. When that acid substance begins to build up, heartburn can occur as your body’s response. Other foods, typically those less-acidic, may do the contrary and prevent heartburn from sneaking up on you in the future. Understanding what foods may make heartburn worse, and which ones may keep the fire at bay. 

What to avoid:

  • Spicy foods
  • Onions
  • Citrus
  • Tomato products, such as ketchup
  • Fatty or fried foods
  • Peppermint
  • Chocolate
  • Alcohol
  • Coffee
  • Carbonated or caffeinated beverages
  • Large or fatty meals

What to eat:

  • Bananas
  • Melons
  • Oatmeal
  • Whole grain bread
  • Rice
  • Potatoes
  • Couscous
  • Yogurt
  • Green vegetables
  • Eggs
  • Lean meat

Some additional ways that may help mitigate the symptoms of heartburn and keep your esophagus functioning properly are to:

  • Avoid wearing tight-fitting clothes since they can be constricting on your digestive tract, making it more likely for heartburn to strike.
  • Avoid smoking.
  • Eat smaller meals throughout the day and avoid eating at least two hours before you go to bed.
  • Avoid lying down after a meal, or wait at least three hours until doing so.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.

If those lifestyle changes don’t seem to make a difference and you start experiencing heartburn more than twice a week, you may want to consider seeing a doctor or looking into an over-the-counter medication.