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Help With Heartburn - Top 10 Foods to Avoid

Help With Heartburn - Top 10 Foods to Avoid

Food for Health


You’ve probably heard of at least one of the following terms: Heart-Burn, Acid Indigestion, GORD, GERD, Acid Reflux, Gastro-oesophageal reflux and almost certainly have come across someone who suffers from this fairly common condition, heartburn, which is caused by acid reflux.

Find out what the top 10 foods to avoid are if you suffer from acid reflux and heartburn.

But first some facts about heartburn.

Did you know?

That one in three of us will suffer at least one episode of heartburn per month and some will suffer this as frequently as every day?

So what causes acid reflux?

When you swallow, the food or drink travels down your oesophagus passing through a muscular valve called the oesophageal sphincter before it reaches your stomach. The sphincter is designed to keep anything that passes through it from coming back up from the stomach into your oesophagus. Any problems with this sphincter may allow the acid to pass back up into your oesophagus and this is referred to as acid reflux.

How does acid reflux happen?

Reflux occurs when whatever happens to be in your stomach moves back up through the sphincter into your oesophagus and for most of us we are not actually aware of this happening until symptoms of heartburn begin.

What are the typical symptoms of acid reflux?

  • Heartburn is the most common symptom. This is described as a burning feeling felt in the chest area and behind the sternum also known as the breast bone.

  • Coughing and occasionally wheezing can both be experienced and are often said to be more frequent at night.

  • A feeling of bloating and belching are often experienced and may be accompanied by regurgitation.

  • A sensation of food sticking while you are swallowing and many suffers will also experience a burning sensation when swallowing hot drinks.

  • Heartburn is common in the later stages of pregnancy.


  1. Coffee: Coffee is high in acid and this is known to aggravate acid reflux. Coffee like many other drinks also contains caffeine and the caffeine relaxes the sphincter responsible for stopping the acid moving up from your stomach.

  2. Cheese: Cheese is naturally high in fat and high fat foods tend to spend longer in your stomach increasing the risk of reflux. Cheese sauces should also be avoided as they often contain butter and cream which are also high fat foods. If you really can’t give up cheese try reduced fat cheese and low fat cheeses such as ricotta or cottage cheese.

  3. Citrus fruits: Citrus fruit is high in acid and this can lead to acid reflux. Beware of your breakfast orange juice as this can also be guilty of causing heartburn.

  4. Spicy Foods: Spicy foods are a common cause of heartburn and if this triggers your heart burn try adding less spices to your food when preparing it. Late night curries are responsible for many episodes of heartburn.

  5. Fatty Food: Fatty and fried foods should be kept to a minimum in order to help reduce heartburn as they are more demanding on your digestive system. Try poaching, steaming or grilling foods to help reduce the fat content.

  6. Alcohol: Red wine and beer are the biggest culprits when it comes to alcohol triggering an attack of heartburn. Alcohol is thought to relax the sphincter responsible for preventing acid reflux and if this is combined with a large meal this could spell disaster for you in terms of an attack of heartburn.

  7. Tomatoes: Tomatoes whether they are fresh, tinned or in a sauce are high in acid and can be a major cause of heartburn.

  8. Fizzy drinks: Once again fizzy drinks tend to be acidic and therefore tend to aggravate the digestive system. The carbon dioxide can also put pressure on the oesophagus causing belching which may allow acid to pass upward through the sphincter.

  9. Onions & garlic: If you suffer heartburn then try to reduce or even eliminate onions and or garlic from your food and see if your symptoms improve.

  10. Chocolate: Chocolate is unfortunately a big cause of heartburn for many of us. It tends to be high in fat and may contain caffeine so your poor digestive system just doesn’t stand a chance.  

What else can I do to help reduce my heartburn?

Some simple changes to your lifestyle can also be very helpful at reducing heartburn.

  • Consider keeping a food diary to help identify what triggers your heartburn paying particular attention to the above list.

  • Although stress does not cause heartburn it can very often aggravate the condition so try to identify any stress factors that may be contributing to your discomfort.

  • Lose weight if necessary.

  • Increase your exercise regime. Not only will this help with you weight management but it can also help at reducing stress.

  • If you do smoke then try to reduce or stop smoking totally.

  • Eat smaller but more frequent meals. Eating large meals especially late at night is a common cause of heartburn. Making a conscious effort to make time to eat slowly and chew your food more thoroughly.

  • If you are taking prescription medication it is worth checking for any known side effects as heartburn may be one. However, consult your medical practitioner before stopping any prescribed medication.

  • A study on the effects of chewing a sugar free gum for 30 minutes after eating produced some positive relief of heartburn.

  • Try elevating the head of your bed by 10cm for night time relief.


Although heartburn may be a cause of chest pain it is not the only cause. You should always seek the diagnosis of a medical expert. A doctor may diagnose acid reflux just by listening carefully when you describe your symptoms and may treat you without the need for any tests with advice and simple antacids. If in doubt further hospital tests and examinations such as an endoscopy may be required.

You should see your doctor if you are over 40 years old and experience chest pain thought to be heartburn for the first time. If you have difficulty or pain on swallowing or suffer chocking attacks. If you vomit blood or have unexplained weight loss.



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