Ouch. Here it comes: heartburn. What was it this time?

Do you know which foods most often trigger heartburn? You can help yourself quite a bit if you stay away from these trigger foods and prevent that intolerable burning sensation.

Tangy citrus fruits

Oranges, grapefruits and orange juice are classically recognized triggers for heartburn. “These are very acidic,” explains Robynne Chutkan, MD, founder of the Digestive Center for Women in Chevy Chase, MD, and gastroenterologist at Georgetown Hospital. “They are likely to cause heartburn, especially when consumed on an otherwise empty stomach.”


Oh yes, tomatoes may be good for you, but if you have a sensitive stomach, forget about it. Tomatoes are highly acidic and likely to cause heartburn in its many variations – paste, soup, sauce – to people who are prone to the burn.

Spicy food, garlic and onion

“Some people with heartburn do not do well with either garlic or onion,” explains Bonnie Taub-Dix, MA, RD, spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association and private nutritionist. Because foods affect people individually, she recommends a food journal to track the foods that cause heartburn most frequently.

Cheese, nuts, avocados and juicy steak

Foods high in fat will also cause the burn. “These foods may not get as much press as acidic foods when it comes to heartburn,” explains Chutkan, “but they can be major triggers.” Fat slows down the emptying of the stomach, so there is more opportunity for a distended stomach. This increases pressure on the esophageal sphincter and makes heartburn more likely.


Especially when taken with a large meal. “If you have a meal of steak, creamed spinach, and lobster bisque and then alcohol on top of that, you may be in for it,” warned Chutkan. Alcohol opens the sphincter, allowing the acid free range.

Caffeine and chocolate

Coffee, soda, tea, chocolate and any other food or beverage with caffeine are big problems. But that doesn’t mean you can never have it. A cup of coffee (3-4 oz) in the morning should be fine. Chocolate, on the other hand, not only has caffeine but also will relax the sphincter and allow stomach acids to flow back into the esophagus. Try to avoid it.

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