Family health

6 foods that cause heartburn (and how to avoid them)

There's nothing pretty about heartburn. Read on about foods that trigger burning discomfort and what you can do to ease the pain.

By Leigh Doyle
foods that cause heartburn Photo: iStockphoto

Feeling that familiar fiery discomfort after your favourite slice of pizza? That’s heartburn. “It’s caused by the digestive acids in the stomach rising up into the esophagus and causing a burning sensation, discomfort and pain,” says Lorrie Ingram, a registered holistic nutritionist, in Stratford, Ont. Certain foods are more likely to trigger heartburn than others, but that doesn’t mean you have to give them up for good. Ingram explains why these six popular foods cause heartburn:

Peppers Sweet or hot, these colourful vegetables are inflammatory, which triggers your body to create more acid to help digestion.

Cheese Cheese and other high fat foods, like red meat or nuts, can cause heartburn because fat slows down the emptying of the stomach. This means there’s more pressure in the stomach pushing acid into the esophagus.

Alcohol Beer, wine and spirits relax the muscles in your body–including the esophageal sphincter, which exists to keep acids out. After a drink or two it doesn’t work that well.

Citrus fruit These are highly acidic and that extra acid will only make heartburn worse. The main offenders are oranges, grapefruit and orange juice.

Carbonated drinks The gas in pop or sparkling water can become trapped in your stomach and create pressure that pushes acid into the esophagus.


Caffeine Anything caffeinated is highly acidic and that increases the likelihood of heartburn.

Ease your heartburn

If some of your favourite food and drinks are on this list, don’t worry. You don’t have to give them up to avoid heartburn, says Ingram. Instead, try these tips to ease it:

Eat a mix of fruit and vegetables Digestive enzymes are in colourful fruits and vegetables so the more types you add to your diet, the better your body will be at breaking down food. “Try to have one with every meal,” says Ingram.

Take a digestive enzyme “Taking these about 20 minutes before you eat will help your body breakdown food and reduce gas and bloating,” she says. You can get them at your local health food store.


Lemon water Have a glass of room-temperature water with the juice from half a lemon in it. Lemon juices reduce the acid in your stomach.

Limit your portion size Overeating adds pressure in your stomach and can force acid into the esophagus leading to heartburn.

Treat the symptoms If you need quick relief, reach for an antacid. But remember, these don’t cure heartburn, they only ease the symptoms.

Originally posted in January 2011. 

This article was originally published on Jan 10, 2014

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