20 Foods That Cause Heartburn

The occasional case of heartburn is often brought on after eating a spicy meal or drinking alcohol, among other things, and can be treated.

Having heartburn once in a while is nothing to worry about. However, if it happens more frequently, and especially at night, it can be a symptom of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), or acid reflux.

This article will talk about heartburn symptoms, causes, typical foods and drinks that trigger heartburn, as well as foods to relieve this uncomfortable feeling.

Fried onion rings.

Justin Ong / Getty Images

Symptoms

Heartburn’s symptoms include:

  • Burning chest pain
  • Pain that moves up toward your throat
  • A feeling that food is coming back into your mouth
  • Bitter or sour taste at the back of your throat
  • Pain that gets worse when you lie down or bend over
  • Difficulty swallowing

Causes

Different types of foods and drinks can cause heartburn. The imbalance in hormones during pregnancy, as well as the crowding of your organs, can also cause heartburn.

Other factors that play a role are weight, smoking status, high stress, and wearing tight clothes and belts.

What About Milk?

For some people, milk can alleviate heartburn. For others, it can make it worse.

Foods to Avoid

There are certain foods that can trigger heartburn, including high-fat foods, acidic foods, and some beverages. Try to avoid or swap out these foods and drinks to keep you feeling well.

High-Fat Foods

These high-fat foods might taste good going down but may leave you feeling ill. Try to cut back on or avoid these foods:

  1. Bacon
  2. Burgers
  3. Butter
  4. Cheese (Gouda, Parmesan, cream cheese, stilton, and cheddar)
  5. Chips
  6. French fries
  7. Fried foods
  8. Pizza
  9. Sausage

Acidic Foods

Acidic foods, even healthy ones, can cause heartburn. Try to cut back on, if not avoid, these triggering foods:

  1. Citrus foods (grapefruit, oranges, lemons, and limes)
  2. Garlic
  3. Onions
  4. Tomato sauce (pasta sauce and red sauce on pizza, salsa, and ketchup)

Beverages

Some of these drinks may trigger heartburn:

  1. Alcohol (Bloody Mary, margarita, and other mixed drinks)
  2. Coffee (or added ingredients like cream and sugar)
  3. Fizzy water (the bubbles can cause pain and discomfort)
  4. Hot chocolate
  5. Milkshakes
  6. Soda and other soft drinks
  7. Wine

Sweets

Candy (especially those that have a vitamin C flavor), chocolate, and even mints can cause heartburn. Chocolate has caffeine, which can trigger heartburn.

Spices and Spicy Foods

Some foods that add flavor to our meals can also cause symptoms. Use chili powder, garlic powder, and pepper sparingly. Likewise, avoid spicy peppers like jalapeños, and definitely leave that ghost pepper in the produce section of the grocery store.

Foods to Relieve Heartburn

Try some of these foods, especially those high in fiber, to prevent or relieve uncomfortable heartburn symptoms:

  • Whole grains: Oatmeal, couscous, and brown rice
  • Root vegetables: Sweet potatoes, carrots, and beets
  • Green vegetables: Asparagus, broccoli, and green beans

Some Easy Swaps

Try swapping out chicken or salmon for a cheeseburger, or try pesto sauce (made of basil) instead of red sauce on pasta.

Swaps You Can Try

There are a lot of delicious options you can try if your current foods and drinks are causing issues, including:

  • Air-fried sweet potatoes instead of food fried in oil
  • Bananas and melons instead of citrus food
  • Chicken and salmon (grilled) instead of a cheeseburger
  • Cottage cheese, ricotta, and other cheeses that have reduced fat
  • Ginger tea instead of mints to aid digestion
  • Pesto sauce instead of red sauce on pasta

Summary

Heartburn can occur after enjoying a spicy meal or drinking certain beverages like soda or alcohol, among other things.

Having heartburn once in a while is usually nothing to worry about. However, if it happens more frequently, and especially at night, it can be a symptom of GERD, or acid reflux.

There are lots of delicious swaps you can make to avoid triggering heartburn. Consider opting for less acidic, non-fried foods to keep your heartburn at bay.

A Word From Verywell

You may experience heartburn after eating a spicy meal or drinking alcohol, among other things. Eating a diet full of whole foods and fiber can help prevent or treat heartburn.

If symptoms persist over weeks after making dietary changes, make an appointment with your healthcare provider or a gastroenterology specialist for a physical exam.

Additionally, heartburn symptoms and heart attack symptoms (chest pain, shortness of breath, and a cold sweat) can overlap. If you have any chest pain or other symptoms, seek help immediately.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What causes heartburn?

    Lots of things can cause heartburn, including spicy foods, citrus fruits, caffeine, sweets. People who are pregnant, overweight, stressed, or not getting enough sleep may also get heartburn.

  • How long does heartburn last?

    The symptoms of heartburn (bitter taste in the back of your throat and a burning sensation in your chest) can last anywhere from a few minutes to several hours.

  • When does heartburn start in pregnancy?

    Heartburn typically starts during the second or third trimester, when the baby is starting to crowd your stomach, diaphragm, and lungs. If heartburn wakes you up in the middle of the night, try taking an over-the-counter antacid like Tums and try to sleep on your left side.

  • Can you prevent heartburn?

    Yes. Avoid eating foods and drinking beverages that trigger heartburn. When eating, take your time and enjoy your meal. Don't go to bed with a full stomach. Try not to overeat. Stop eating when you start to feel full.

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3 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Clarrett DM, Hachem C. Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD). Mo Med. 2018;115(3):214-218.

  2. The Gastro Clinic. Top 10 Foods that Cause Heartburn.

  3. Johns Hopkins Medicine. GERD Diet: Foods That Help with Acid Reflux Heartburn.