Foods Types That Triggers Heartburn

When trying to avoid foods that cause heartburn, the list can seem daunting. All the good stuff appears to be on these lists, but understanding why certain foods are on there may allow you to make choices that don't limit your diet to a large extent.

Most Common Foods that Cause Heartburn

The first thing to note is that there are some foods that are a problem for almost everyone. Those foods are citrus fruits, tomatoes, onions, garlic, peppermint, alcohol, caffeine, and chocolate. Not all of these foods that cause heartburn may affect you, but chances are pretty good that eating them will cause your symptoms to flare. You can experiment to determine which are problems by eating them one at a time and eliminating the food if symptoms occur soon after ingestion.

Foods by Mechanism of Action for Causing Heartburn

The foods that cause heartburn can be neatly divided into three categories: those that relax the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), those that stimulate acid production, and those that cause distension of the stomach.

In the first case, the LES is the muscle that keeps food (and acid) in the stomach and prevents it from backing up into the esophagus. Anything that causes this muscle to relax will make it easier for acid to back up. Foods that cause heartburn by this mechanism include:

- Fried foods

- High fat foods

- Butter

- Mayonnaise

- Creamy sauces

- Salad dressings

- Chocolate

- Peppermint

- Caffeine

- Alcohol

- Onions

In the second category of foods that cause heartburn are those that increase production of acid in the stomach.

- Caffeine

- Alcohol

- Carbonated beverages

- Spicy food

- Black pepper

- Citrus fruits

- Tomatoes

You will note that there are some repeats on this list that were on the previous list. Foods that show up on both lists are especially good at causing heartburn and should be avoided as much as possible.

In the final category of foods that cause heartburn are those that increase distension of the stomach. It is important to note that this can actually include any food if eaten in large enough quantity, which is why it is best to eat multiple small meals rather than a few large meals. For foods that create distension, the most common culprits are:

- Excessive salt

- Carbohydrate loads

- Broccoli

- Cauliflower

- Cabbage

- Onions

- Peppers

- Fried foods

Once again, you will see some foods that appear on multiple lists. Avoid these at all costs and especially avoid eating them near bedtime. As a final note, coffee can cause heartburn, partly through the caffeine it contains and partly because of its own innate properties. A little coffee each day, particularly in the morning, is fine. However, you should limit your total consumption and avoid it before bed altogether. Remember that 1 to 2 cups in the morning is okay. Also remember that Starbucks cups are more like 3 cups, so one of those is all the coffee you should consume in a day.