Heartburn is when a burning pain affects the upper chest, often alongside belching, coughing or even regurgitation. Heartburn occurs when stomach acid rises up into the esophagus. Diet has a huge impact on the frequency and severity of heartburn. There is no strict heartburn-friendly diet, as different people are affected differently, but there are general guidelines you can follow. In addition to this, however, it is best to take the time to figure out what specific foods affect you.
Foods that May Help Relieve Heartburn
Some foods are widely considered safe for heartburn sufferers. Eating more of these foods can help reduce the frequency and severity of heartburn. Choose bananas, apples, potatoes, broccoli, cabbage, carrots and peas from the produce section. Garlic can be beneficial, particularly for people who have H. pylori bacteria in the stomach. H. pylori bacteria can damage tissue and cause inflammation, both heartburn contributors. Including some raw garlic in your diet can help eliminate this bacteria. As for meats, go with the leanest steaks you can find or skinless chicken breasts. Other good protein sources are fish (with no fat added during cooking) and egg whites. In general, low-fat or fat-free dairy products are superior choices. This includes fat-free cream cheese, fat-free sour cream and low-fat mozzarella, feta or goat cheese. As for grains, choose multi-grain bread, brown rice and cornbread. Pretzels and rice cakes make great snacks.
Foods that Should be Moderated
Some foods are neither good nor bad when it comes to heartburn. These are foods that may aggravate heartburn in certain people, but are, in general, neutral. In the fruits category, grapes, berries and peaches are all usually safe. Vegetables such as beans, leeks and green onions may be good choices as well. Onions, which in their raw form are a major contributor to heartburn in many people, can have their negative effects curbed through cooking. Slightly less lean protein options, like lean deli ham, canned tuna and lean ground beef may be safe when eaten in moderation. Low-fat milk and yogurt are both unlikely to cause problems, although in some people yogurt's effect on the stomach's pH balance can be problematic. Sparse amounts of extra virgin olive oil or low-fat salad dressing are two ways of adding fat to your food without running a high risk of heartburn. A final condiment that many heartburn-sufferers don't have to live without is ketchup.
Foods that Should be Avoided
High-fat foods are some of the most problematic for heartburn. Fatty meats, like bacon and hot dogs or fried foods such as onion rings can prove painful later. High-fat dairy products such as chocolate and cheese are common culprits as well. Spicy and acidic foods such as citrus fruits, onions and tomatoes can also trigger acid-reflux. For this reason, foods like marinara sauce and chili are some of the most dangerous for acid-reflux.
What to Drink
Coffee is commonly considered a problem for people with frequent heartburn. Caffeinated or minted teas can have a similar effect, as can citrus fruit juices. Water, on the other hand, can be a big help when it comes to relieving heartburn. Dehydration can cause heartburn, so consuming healthy amounts of clean water can help prevent the rising of stomach acid.
Other Tips for Relieving Heartburn
Heartburn isn't only about what you eat, but it's about how you eat it. Overeating can cause heartburn because a distended stomach increases pressure, making the juices more likely to move up into the esophagus. The reasoning behind recommendations against tight-fitting clothing is similar. Putting pressure around your waist can ultimately push the stomach juices up into the esophagus. Finally, consider gravity. If you don't want your food to rise, keep your stomach below your esophagus. This means that lying down just after a meal is probably not a good idea, as it allows stomach acid to flow right back into the esophagus. Instead, give yourself a good amount of time between dinner and bed. Spend that time in an upright position, allowing the pressure on your stomach to be relieved before laying down flat.