Top Foods That Start (& Stop) Heartburn

Almost without fail, holidays equal lots of food. The trouble usually starts when you find a dish that's so delicious, you just can’t get enough (it happens to the best of us). Of course a few hours later, when heartburn kicks in, you’ll ask yourself that burning question: “Why did I eat so much?” We explain which foods can kick up heartburn (and why), plus ways to cool it down.
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The trouble usually starts when you find a dish so delicious that you can't get enough (it happens to the best of us). Of course, a few hours later, when indigestion kicks in, you’ll wonder: “Why did I eat so much?” Before you overdo it, check out our list of foods that kick up heartburn (and why) and ways to cool it down.

Burning Foods

Heartburn is that burning sensation you get when stomach acids jump up into the esophagus. We’ve all had that icky feeling, but you can avoid it but passing on foods that help stoke the fire.

    Some top culprits:
  • Citrus fruits: Oranges, grapefruits and juices made from these fruits tend to cause heartburn, especially when consumed on an empty stomach. If you’re worried about not getting enough vitamin C, choose alternate vitamin C-rich foods that aren’t so acidic such as potatoes, bell peppers and kale.
  • Tomatoes: Though they're chock full of good-for-you lycopene, the acidity in tomatoes can be irritating for those who are prone to heartburn.
  • Spicy foods: Yep, the old saying is true -- spicy foods can trigger heartburn (in some folks). If you've ever found yourself with a bit of burn after eating Mexican fare or chili, you might want to opt for less spicy versions of your favorites.
  • Fatty foods: French fries, fried chicken, gravies and creamy sauces are examples of high-fat foods that can bring on the flames. Instead, choose lower-fat options such as grilled chicken or fish with a touch of olive oil.
  • Peppermint and spearmint: An after dinner mint can sooth bad breath, but stir up trouble elsewhere. Both peppermint and spearmint oils tend to relax the muscle that keeps acids in the stomach and make it easier for them to slip back into your esophagus.
  • Alcohol: The holiday season inevitably includes alcohol with all the food, a not-so-friendly combination for heartburn sufferers. A glass of wine isn’t the issue; it’s when you eat tons of foods (including several heartburn-triggering ones) and top the feast with multiple alcoholic drinks. Like the mints mentioned above, alcohol relaxes the muscle between the stomach and esophagus and makes it easy for acids to escape.
  • Chocolate: If you’re a chocolate lover like me, this might come as a shock, but chocolate is on the heartburn list for the same reason as alcohol.
Preventing the Burn

The causes of heartburn vary widely, and the same foods don't irritate everyone. If you’re not sure what’s triggering yours, keep a food diary to pinpoint the culprit. In the meantime, stick with nonirritating foods. This list published by the Heartburn Alliance can help guide you to better choices.

Meanwhile, if you're suffering, try these simple ways to help prevent the burn. And if it's too late and you've already got it, we have a few tips to dampen the blaze:

    • Eat smaller meals: If you find yourself having more heartburn than usual, split your large meal into two smaller ones. Have some soup and salad, then wait an hour or two to have the main course.
  • Cut down the alcohol: Stick to one glass of your favorite cocktail, beer or wine, or avoid it completely.
  • Don’t drink liquids at meals: Drink between meals instead of with them. This will fill your stomach less and alleviate some of the discomfort.
  • Wear loose clothing: Tight clothing that presses against your belly just makes it worse.
  • Avoid lying down after eating: Use gravity to your advantage -- stand or sit after
  • Medications: Antacids and numerous other over-the-counter medications are always options, but if you find your heartburn worsening, see your doctor.
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