What is heartburn?
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.
Other things can trigger heartburn, including:
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.
When to see a doctor
If you’ve tried changing your diet but your heartburn isn’t getting better, it’s time to see your doctor. Talk to your doctor about medications and other changes you might need to make.
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
BioMed Research International: "Foeniculum vulgare Mill: A Review of Its Botany, Phytochemistry, Pharmacology, Contemporary Application, and Toxicology."
Canadian Society of Intestinal Research GI Society: "Diet and Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease."
Cedars Sinai: "Esophageal Soft Food Diet Guidelines," "Heartburn and Acid Reflux: What You Need to Know."
Food & Function: "A review of the gastroprotective effects of ginger (Zingiber officinale Roscoe)."
Harvard Medical School Harvard Health Publishing: "What to eat when you have chronic heartburn."
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: "Types of fat."
JOHNS HOPKINS MEDICINE: "GERD Diet: Foods That Help with Acid Reflux (Heartburn)."
Mayo Clinic: "Heartburn."
National Institutes of Health National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: "Acid Reflux (GER & GERD) in Adults."
University Hospitals: "The Best and Worst Foods for Acid Reflux."
World Journal of Gastroenterology: "Fiber-enriched diet helps to control symptoms and improves esophageal motility in patients with non-erosive gastroesophageal reflux disease."
Top What Should I Eat When I Have Heartburn Related Articles
28 Tips to Get Rid of Heartburn at NightWhat to know about nighttime heartburn relief. Learn foods to avoid, lifestyle changes, and medications for heartburn.
Beyond Food: What Triggers Heartburn and GERD?Heartburn is the burning sensation in the chest due to backflow or reflux of the acidic stomach contents into the food pipe (esophagus). Heartburn is a major symptom of gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD.
GERD (Acid Reflux, Heartburn)Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), also called acid reflux, can cause symptoms like heartburn, chest pain, regurgitation, and nausea. Learn about causes, diagnosis, treatment and prevention.
Heartburn is a burning sensation experienced from acid reflux (GERD). Symptoms of heartburn include chest pain, burning in the throat, difficulty swallowing, the feeling of food sticking in the throat, and a burning feeling in the chest.
Causes of heartburn include dietary habits, lifestyle habits, and medical causes.
Treatments for heartburn include lifestyle changes, OTC medication,prescription medication, and surgery.
Heartburn Foods SlidesLearn the symptoms of heartburn and which foods cause heartburn or GERD. Discover home remedies and which foods may provide treatment for heartburn relief.
Acid Reflux (Heartburn, GERD): Symptoms & RemediesHeartburn is a symptom of acid reflux that causes chest pain when stomach acid backs up into the esophagus. Heartburn symptoms may mimic chest pain that occurs during a heart attack. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) may produce other symptoms.
Heartburn vs. Acid Reflux (Differences and Similarities)
Heartburn and acid reflux are not the same thing. Heartburn is actually a symptom of acid reflux. Heartburn gets its name because it feels like a burning sensation around the heart. Another symptom that occurs with heartburn is a bitter or sour taste in the mouth, usually when you eat or lye down. Heartburn affects more than 60 million people in the US at least once a month. Acid reflux, or GERD, occurs when stomach acid backs up into the esophagus, which irritates it. Heartburn is just one symptom of acid reflux. Other symptoms of acid reflux include:
- Nausea after eating
- A feeling of fullness during or after eating
- Abdominal bloating
- Upset stomach
- Reflux laryngitis
- A tightness in the throat
- Problems swallowing
- In some people, vomiting
Causes of acid reflux and heartburn include:
- Being obese
- Slouching (poor posture)
- Medications like calcium channel blockers, theophylline, nitrates, and antihistamines
- Foods and drinks like caffeine, citrus fruits and vegetables, alcohol, and chocolate
- Increase in stomach acid
- Eating a heavy meal
- Eating before bed
The treatment for heartburn and acid reflux is to treat the underlying cause, for example, GERD, with over-the-counter (OTC) medicine, prescription medicine, natural remedies, and lifestyle changes like a eating a healthy, less fatty, spicy diet, not eating big meals, not eating before bed, and getting regular exercise to improve your posture.
Sometimes a heart attack can mimic heartburn and acid reflux because they feel very similar. If you have symptoms of chest pain, tightness in the chest, heartburn, acid reflux, jaw, tooth, or head pain; shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, sweating, discomfort in the upper middle of the abdomen, arm or upper back pain, or the general feeling of being ill, go to the nearest Emergency Department immediately because these are the symptoms of a heart attack.
American College of Gastroenterology. "Acid Reflux." 2017.
familydoctor.org. "Heartburn." Updated: Mar 2014.
National Library of Medicine; PubMed Health. "Heartburn and GERD: Treatment options for GERD." Updated: Nov 18, 2015.
How Do You Stop Heartburn Instantly?Heartburn happens when your esophagus becomes irritated due to stomach acid. You can stop heartburn instantly with over-the-counter medications like antacids.
Ways to Relieve Acid Reflux (GERD, Heartburn)Most people have experienced some sort of pain or discomfort following a large meal or a particular food that didn’t quite agree with their stomach. Acid reflux symptoms can happen without a specific underlying condition.
What Can Heartburn Be a Sign of?Heartburn symptoms may indicate a bigger health concern. Learn more about heartburn, heartburn symptoms, heartburn related to other health conditions, how it's diagnosed, and your treatment options for heartburn.
What Is the Quickest Way to Get Rid of Heartburn?The quickest way to get rid of heartburn is taking antacids, which help neutralize stomach acid. There are also natural remedies that can relieve heartburn.
What Should I Eat for Dinner to Avoid Heartburn?Acid reflux takes place when the acid from your stomach touches the esophagus, causing pain and irritation. Good foods to eat for dinner to avoid heartburn include leafy greens, non-citrus fruits, ginger, oatmeal, healthy fats, seafood and aloe vera juice.