Heartburn is caused by excess stomach acid that escapes from the stomach and creeps up to irritate the esophagus lining. The result is burning and discomfort that occurs in your chest, just above the upper portion of the ribcage and behind the breastbone. There are several known culprits that are believed to trigger heartburn, such as stress and cigarette use. Heartburn symptoms tend to worsen when lying down, bending over, overeating or when indulging on foods that are heartburn triggers, like the 10 listed below.
1. Citrus Fruits
Citrus fruits, such as oranges, lemons and grapefruits, as well as their juices, are common heartburn triggers. Citrus fruits and juices contain a large amount of acid. Individuals suffering from an already acidic internal environment often find that consuming citrus fruits increases heartburn symptoms. If you can't live without citrus foods, avoid consuming them on an empty stomach and opt for low-acid citrus juices.
Tomatoes are highly acidic as well, and individuals suffering from heartburn are likely to see an increase in symptoms after eating them. The amount of acid found in fresh tomatoes multiplies when the tomatoes are used in cooked dishes, such as sauces and soups. Although tomatoes are high in antioxidants, they are not recommended in large doses for heartburn sufferers. To get your tomato fix, stick to fresh tomatoes eaten halfway through the meal rather than as a first course, and limit sauces and soups.
Garlic is a powerful superfood known for its amazing health benefits. Each little clove contains some of the best natural remedies for aiding in the treatment of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, plaque buildup in the arteries, high blood sugar and blood clots. It is even believed by some professionals to help prevent cancer by inhibiting the growth of tumors and reducing their size. It contains antibiotic, antiviral and antifungal properties and can help boost the immune system. All of these effects come with a price, however. A close cousin to the onion, garlic has a pungent odor and strong taste. These properties can increase acid production in the stomach, leading to heartburn.
4. Spicy foods
Much like garlic, spicy foods such as peppers, chili and other heat-containing foods can trigger heartburn symptoms. Unlike some of the other foods on this list, eating spicy foods in small doses generally will not decrease heartburn symptoms. Being one of the top offenders, spicy foods are a big no-no for heartburn sufferers, even if they are consumed in moderation.
Many individuals are surprised to learn that peppermint is a common heartburn trigger. Peppermint helps to calm the stomach by relaxing stomach muscles and assisting bile to flow freely to digest fats. For heartburn sufferers, this relaxation of the stomach muscles can cause stomach acids to leak out and flow back up to the esophagus, resulting in increased heartburn symptoms. Unlike pure peppermint, peppermint flavoring does not have this effect and can be safely consumed by heartburn sufferers.
6. Cheese, Nuts And Steak
Cheese, nuts and meats do not appear to be in the same food category. They are certainly not found in the same food aisle at the grocery store. But in terms of heartburn, they all have one thing in common - they are fatty foods. Foods that are high in fat do not digest as quickly as low-fat foods. The stomach does not empty quickly when it contains fatty foods, and so the food just builds up in the stomach and presses on the esophageal sphincter. When this happens, heartburn symptoms are likely to occur. You don't have to become a vegan to avoid heartburn, just opt for low-fat milk and dairy products and choose leaner cuts of meat. To cut back on fats, avoid frying your meats and try baking, broiling or grilling instead.
Alcohol, including beer, wine and liquor, can all contribute to heartburn symptoms. Red wine is especially problematic for heartburn sufferers because the red grape has a similar effect as tomatoes and citrus fruits. Similar to peppermint, alcohol has that same relaxing effect on the stomach. Moderation is key with alcohol, and individual limits will vary. Some heartburn sufferers can drink two glasses without triggering symptoms, while others will start to feel the burn after just a few sips.
In addition to coffee and tea, soda and other caffeinated beverages or foods can quickly trigger a heartburn episode. Coffee drinkers cringe at the idea of eliminating their favorite hot beverage from their diet. Luckily, this does not have to be the case. Before enjoying a cup of coffee or tea, be sure to eat something a light meal or snack to coat the stomach. Breads are a good choice because they will help absorb the acids that are hanging around in the stomach. Choosing decaffeinated beverages is a great way to enjoy your beverage of choice while eliminating the unpleasant side effects form caffeine.
Aside from the caffeine in chocolate, the substance itself can be a cause of heartburn attacks. Chocolate has the same relaxing effect on the esophageal sphincter as peppermint and alcohol, resulting in an increased risk of stomach acid backing up into the esophagus and causing heartburn. Consuming chocolate only after a meal can help decrease the incidence of heartburn. While you probably don't have to avoid chocolate altogether, limiting consumption can help alleviate heartburn symptoms. If you are a die-hard chocolate addict, slowly decrease the amount you consume in a sitting, and continue to do so until you have cut back to no more than two ounces at a time.
10. Carbonated Beverages
Carbonated beverages can result in a distended abdomen resulting from excess gas. When this occurs, additional pressure is placed on the esophageal sphincter, once again allowing excess stomach acid to escape and flow into the esophagus. Because that gassy, bloated feeling can be felt after just a few sips, heartburn sufferers would be wise to avoid carbonated beverages altogether.
Avoid Food Triggers
Controlling your diet and eliminating foods that are known heartburn triggers is an important step in decreasing heartburn symptoms and eliminating the condition. While the list above contains 10 of the most common culprits, remember that every person is unique, and there may be other foods that elicit a heartburn response in your body. Consider starting a food journal, in which you keep track of the foods you consume and any heartburn symptoms you experience after eating. This can be a near foolproof method for identifying heartburn triggers and eliminating them from your diet.