When heartburn hits, it feels like your stomach has been lit on fire and the flames are tickling your throat. Also known as acid reflux or GERD, that burning, burping, and bloating can be controlled by eating the right foods at the right times. To start to soothe these uncomfortable symptoms, it’s important to understand what causes them in the first place.
Heartburn happens when acid from the stomach reaches the esophagus, or the tube that connects your throat to your stomach (1). There is a door-like blocking (called your lower esophageal sphincter) which normally prevents stomach acid from coming up into your esophagus. If that “door” relaxes or doesn’t close all the way, food and acid finds its way up, causing unpleasant symptoms such as burning.
Some medications, such as aspirin or ibuprofen or blood pressure medications, may result in acid reflux, but how you eat is one of the main culprits. Some foods that can cause acid to ascend include:
To help heartburn, it's best to aim for a balanced way of eating including vegetables, fruits, proteins, and whole grains. These foods won’t cure heartburn but eating the right kind of foods can help soothe your symptoms:
Fruits and vegetables contain a lot of water which can help dilute stomach acid. Some good vegetable options include lettuce, celery, green beans, asparagus and cucumbers. Great fruit options are bananas, apples, melons, and pears.
Eating whole grains such as oatmeal, brown rice, quinoa, and whole grain bread or pasta has been shown to reduce stomach acid which causes heartburn (2). Fiber-rich foods also help you feel more full, so you’ll be less likely to overeat which is another cause of heartburn.
Lean meats such as chicken, turkey, and fish can help reduce symptoms. Just make sure they are prepared by boiling, baking, or poaching versus frying. Eggs are also a good option but the yolk may cause heartburn so aim to keep them to a minimum if you feel like they are making it worse. Plant-based options such as beans, peas, and lentils are also perfect proteins.
Eating too many fatty foods, especially those fried or processed fats, can trigger acid reflux. Replace them with healthy fats from natural food sources such as avocado, nuts, seeds, olives, olive and plant oils.
Ginger has been suggested to have powerful anti-inflammatory properties which can benefit overall health. It’s thought to be natural treatments for heartburn and other tummy troubles, however studies are not conclusive (3). Since it typically doesn’t cause harm when eaten in moderation, you can give it a try and see how you feel. Try adding a bit of grated ginger to your recipes or sip on some ginger tea.
For more healthy meals ideas made from these ingredients that can help cool off your acid reflux, check out the Lifesum app!
There are also some daily habits that can help relieve heartburn, especially if you experience it at night. It;s helpful to eat smaller, more frequent meals or snacks so your stomach doesn’t get too full. Before you eat a meal, try taking a few deep breaths and make sure to thoroughly chew your food. As a bonus, try some mindful eating exercises: How to Eat More Mindfully.
Before bed, steer clear of a large and heavy meal. This way your stomach has enough time to digest. Try to give yourself a couple hours between your last meal and when you go to bed. That’s because when you lay down, it's more likely that the food in your stomach can seep into your windpipe. Consider sleeping with your upper body elevated on some pillows or a prop.
If you experience acid reflux on a regular basis, check in with your medical provider. Depending on over the counter aids may not be healthy on a long term basis.
All of the content and media on Lifesum is created and published for information purposes only. It is not intended to be used as a substitute for medical advice or treatment. Users should always consult with a doctor or other health care professional for medical advice. If you have or think you are at risk of developing an eating disorder, do not use the Lifesum app and seek immediate medical help.