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If you suffer from heartburn, it’s worth knowing that there are several foods that can cause heartburn that you should avoid. Find out more in this guide here.
Heartburn is a very painful, burning sensation that affects the lower chest area. It’s actually a symptom of another condition known as acid reflux which is the result of stomach acid entering the oesophagus (the tube that sends food and drink to your stomach). Usually, a ring-shaped muscle called the lower oesophageal sphincter (LOS) stops stomach acid from doing this and it stays closed, only opening when you swallow or burp. But sometimes this muscle can become weakened or certain foods may relax this muscle, causing heartburn.
If you suffer from this painful issue, you may be wondering about which foods cause heartburn so you can eliminate them from your diet. Keep reading to find out all you need to know.
Fatty foods are one of the biggest causes of heartburn, but eating large portions and consuming food late at night can trigger it too. Large portions in particular stretch the stomach and put pressure on the lower oesophageal sphincter, causing it to relax and allow stomach acid to enter the oesophagus.
If heartburn is an issue you suffer with, it’s best to avoid the following foods that cause heartburn to try and reduce the risk of it happening:
Fatty foods are one of the main foods that cause heartburn. This is due to a number of factors, one of which being that fatty foods sit in your stomach longer, leading to the production of more acid which irritates the digestive system. Additionally, foods that are high in fat stimulate the release of a hormone called cholecystokinin (CCK) which can relax your LOS. So, to put it simply, more stomach acid + relaxed lower oesophageal sphincter = a recipe for heartburn.
Fatty foods such as the following are best avoiding if you are prone to heartburn:
Spicy foods irritate your stomach and this could cause heartburn. One of the biggest offenders are chili peppers as they contain capsaicin which may cause delayed gastric emptying and promote acid reflux. Additionally, curries will often have onions in them which are thought to relax the oesophageal sphincter and cause acid reflux. If you’re particularly sensitive to takeaway curries, try making your own at home and choose milder spices and fresh herbs and use coconut milk to reduce the spice.
Foods that are high in acidity such as tomatoes and citrus fruits can irritate the lining of a damaged oesophagus, putting you more at risk of heartburn and acid reflux symptoms. Avoid acidic foods that cause heartburn such as lemons, oranges, grapefruits and their juices and instead opt for milder fruits such as berries, melons and strawberries. It’s best to avoid sauces that contain tomato too or try adding baking soda to try and combat some of the acidity.
Fizzy drinks contain a lot of gas which will often make you burp, leading to the forcible opening of the oesophageal sphincter. Additionally, carbonated drinks can contain a lot of sugar which ferment in the stomach, causing more gas and making you bloat, putting you at more risk of acid reflux.
Mint is a food that can cause heartburn that people never expect, as peppermint and spearmint are often used to soothe some digestive conditions. However, in a study carried out it was found that high doses of mint may actually be linked to acid reflux. In the study, it was concluded that spearmint irritated the lining of the oesophageal sphincter and caused acid reflux.
Drinking a moderate – excessive amount of alcohol can cause heartburn. This is due to the fact that alcohol can lower the oesophageal sphincter and allow stomach acid to escape, causing heartburn. Wine and beer are particularly bad offenders as they can increase the amount of stomach acid you produce too. Consuming alcohol over time could also lead to the damage of the oesophagus lining, making it more sensitive to stomach acid.
If you are prone to heartburn, you may have heard suggestions to drink milk to help relieve it, but it may actually make it worse as whole milk can increase stomach acid. In a study carried out on around 400 people that suffered from heartburn, 38% said they had symptoms after drinking whole milk. Researchers believe it’s due to the high fat content in milk.
It’s important to note that everyone is different and some foods might cause heartburn in some and not really impact others. Bear in mind that it’s not just food that can cause heartburn too, but other lifestyle habits such as smoking and stress can aggravate it too, so if you want to reduce your risk of getting it, it’s best to try a combination of lifestyle and diet improvements.
If you’re really suffering with acid reflux and are getting it more than a couple of times a week, consult your doctor as it may be a sign of something more serious.
That’s our guide on foods that can cause heartburn! Now you know what to avoid, why not find out what foods help with heartburn and acid reflux symptoms, next?