5 Foods That Can Cause Terrible Heartburn

A man with heartburn

A man with heartburn | Source: iStock

Every wonder what’s going on when you eat one too many greasy slices of pizza and suddenly your chest is tight and the unmistakable sting of heartburn takes over? It may be something you ignore at first, but over time this burning sensation may become more painful and more frequent. When you eat, everything you consume gets mashed up (thanks to your teeth) before sliding down your esophagus and into your stomach where the food mixes with your body’s digestive juices. Gastroesophageal reflux (GERD), also known as heartburn, happens when the stomach’s acid or other stomach contents back up into the esophagus. The backwash or reflux irritates the lining of your esophagus and causes GERD.

An estimated 60 million Americans get heartburn at least once a month and while it may seem common enough, heartburn is easily avoidable. By leaving a few simple foods out of your daily diet, you can help head off the pain.

1. Tomatoes


Tomatoes | Source: iStock

Salsa, ketchup, spaghetti sauce, and tomato soup are just a few of the many tomato-based substances that you may eat religiously. As much as you may love to top almost everything with a squirt of ketchup or can’t imagine life without cherry tomatoes crowning your salad, this vitamin packed vegetable is also packed with citric and malic acid, which can make the stomach over-produce gastric acid. The gastric acid is responsible for breaking down food and when the volumes of this digestive acid get too high the acid can flow back up into the esophagus leading to heartburn.

2. Chocolate

If you have a sweet tooth, chances are you consume a little chocolate almost daily. Whether you opt for milk or dark chocolate, this treat seems to cause more heartburn than any other food. Chocolate contains caffeine and other stimulants, which are proven to cause reflux. In addition, chocolate is high in fat and contains varying levels of cocoa, both of which lead to reflux. While it may be difficult, this may be one treat to cut back on if you tend to have regular heartburn.

3. Alcohol

two beer glasses, one bing poured, with steak and fries

Alcohol | Source: iStock

You may not like to hear it, but throwing back a few brews with the guys may be a major contributor to your heartburn woes. Red wine and beer are particularly bad, especially when being consumed with a meal. Alcohol relaxes the valve to your esophagus, allowing stomach acid to creep up from below leading to that annoying burn. If you aren’t ready to give up your beer and burger, make a point to eat less to minimize your risk of heartburn.

4. Citrus

Fruits like grapefruit, oranges, lemons, and limes are considered to be part of the citrus family, a group of fruits that are classified together due to their high levels of citric acid (hence the name). Whether you drink their juices or eat them whole, these fruits increase acid production in your stomach, which leads to heartburn. Pineapple is also high in citric acid, while lemons and limes have the most citric acid of any fruit. Watch out for citric acid in soft drinks and sweets that have a tart taste.

5. Fried foods

Chicken fingers, breaded chicken, tenders, fried

Fried food | Source: iStock

Guy’s night may not feel the same without wings and onion rings, but fried foods can be brutal for a person prone to acid reflux. Anything fried contains high levels of oil and the high fat content makes it harder for your body to digest. Unlike foods that pass through your stomach quickly, fried foods may hang out for a bit while they get broken down. This slow process puts pressure on your stomach and esophagus. Save calories and give your stomach a break by choosing grilled items over fried.

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