What is heartburn?
Heartburn happens when your stomach acid comes up your throat. It is also called acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux, but it is a symptom of these conditions.
Ongoing acid reflux that doesn’t get better or interferes with your life is called gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD. This condition can lead to serious damage and a disease called Barrett’s esophagus.
Symptoms of heartburn include:
What causes heartburn?
Food moves from your mouth to your stomach through your esophagus. When you swallow, a valve between your esophagus and stomach, called the lower esophageal sphincter, opens and lets food into your stomach. If the valve becomes weak, stomach acid can flush back through this valve.
Pressure on your stomach during pregnancy or obesity and smoking can weaken the valve. Some herbs like spearmint and peppermint can cause the valve to relax, which can cause heartburn.
Other things can trigger heartburn, including:
- Spicy foods
- Citrus foods
- Fatty foods
- Fried foods
- Blood pressure medications
Top 10 heartburn foods
Making changes to your diet is a great way to help ease heartburn. You can start by avoiding foods that are likely to worsen your symptoms and then add in other nutritious foods. There are no specific diets for acid reflux, but these top 10 heartburn foods might help:
High fiber foods keep you feeling full for longer. This can stop you from overeating, which might trigger heartburn. Fiber-rich diets have also been linked to lower acid reflux risk. Eating whole grains like oatmeal and whole grain rice can help.
Root vegetables like sweet potatoes are great sources of fiber and complex carbohydrates. Try roasting, grilling, or broiling sweet potatoes with other root vegetables like beets and carrots. Roasting brings out sweeter flavors and avoids frying, which can trigger heartburn. Make sure to leave out the garlic and onions, which can be irritating.
Ginger is well known for its soothing digestive effects. It can help with gas, nausea, and bloating, and it’s anti-inflammatory, which can help soothe an irritated digestive system. If you normally enjoy coffee, try switching to ginger tea. You can add a slice of fresh ginger to a mug of hot water.
Fruits are part of a healthy diet, but citrus fruits can trigger heartburn. Instead, focus on eating watery fruits like watermelon, cantaloupe, and honeydew. Extra water can help dilute stomach acid and ease your symptoms.
If your throat is sore and irritated from acid reflux, you might need to eat soft and watery foods for a while. Broth-based soups and chicken broth can be soothing and the extra water can dilute stomach acid. Make sure it’s not too hot so it doesn’t burn your sore throat.
Fennel is a low-acid vegetable and is known for its anti-inflammatory and soothing digestive effects. Traditional cultures often eat fennel or drink fennel tea for nausea, gas, stomachaches, and gastritis, or inflammation in the stomach lining. It’s sweet and crunchy with a mild licorice taste and is rich in fiber.
People often say you should drink milk if you have heartburn, but it’s important to pay attention to the fat content in milk and dairy products. Fatty foods take longer to digest and can delay stomach emptying, which can trigger acid reflux.
At the same time, non-fat milk can act as a temporary barrier between your stomach lining and your stomach acid. This can ease your symptoms right away. Make sure to drink non-fat milk and dairy products.
Spicy foods can trigger heartburn, but heartburn doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice taste. While eating bland meals can help if you have a lot of irritation, you can try using fresh herbs instead of hot spices. These can add plenty of flavor to your meal without bothering your stomach. Try parsley, basil, or rosemary.
Since fatty foods can trigger heartburn, it’s important to avoid a high-fat diet and switch to healthier fats. Animal fats like lard and butter are high in saturated fats. Swap these for plant-based fats like olive, sunflower, or avocado oil.
Meat is also high in saturated fat. Switching to lean meats can help lower the amount of fat you’re eating and help heartburn. Poultry and fish are also great options and good sources of protein.