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What to eat and avoid for heartburn relief


Heartburn is a common condition in the Black community characterized by a burning sensation in the chest, often after eating. It’s caused by stomach acid flowing back into the esophagus, a phenomenon known as acid reflux. While occasional heartburn is common, chronic heartburn can indicate gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Managing heartburn involves dietary choices, so knowing what to eat and avoid is crucial for relief. In this article, we’ll explore foods that can help alleviate heartburn and those that are best avoided.


Heartburn can significantly impact daily life, affecting everything from meal enjoyment to sleep quality. Understanding which foods can trigger or alleviate heartburn is key to managing this condition. By making informed dietary choices, you can minimize discomfort and improve your quality of life.

Foods to eat for heartburn relief

Certain foods can help soothe the digestive system and reduce the likelihood of heartburn. These foods are generally low in fat, high in fiber, and not too acidic.

  1. Oatmeal: Oatmeal is a great breakfast option. It’s high in fiber, which helps regulate digestion and keeps you full, reducing the risk of overeating, a common heartburn trigger.
  2. Ginger: Known for its anti-inflammatory properties, ginger can help soothe the digestive tract. Add fresh ginger to smoothies, soups, or teas for a natural remedy.
  3. Vegetables: Vegetables such as broccoli, green beans, celery, and cauliflower are low in fat and sugar, making them less likely to cause heartburn. These nutrient-dense foods support overall digestive health.
  4. Non-citrus fruits: Fruits like bananas, melons, apples, and pears are less likely to trigger heartburn than citrus fruits. They provide essential vitamins without the acidity that can irritate the esophagus.
  5. Lean proteins: Opt for lean meats like chicken, turkey, and fish. These are less likely to cause reflux compared to high-fat meats. Grilled, broiled, or baked preparations are preferable.
  6. Whole grains: Whole grains like brown rice, whole wheat bread, and whole wheat pasta are good sources of fiber, which can help prevent acid reflux by keeping the digestive system running smoothly.
  7. Herbal teas: Teas such as chamomile, licorice, or slippery elm can be soothing. They help reduce inflammation and promote a calm digestive tract.

Foods to avoid for heartburn relief

Certain foods are known to exacerbate heartburn by relaxing the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) or increasing stomach acid production. Avoiding these can help manage symptoms effectively.

  1. Spicy foods: Spicy foods can irritate the esophagus and trigger heartburn. It’s best to limit or avoid dishes that contain hot peppers, chili powder, or other spicy ingredients.
  2. Citrus fruits and juices: Oranges, lemons, grapefruits, and their juices are highly acidic and can irritate the esophagus, leading to heartburn. Opt for non-citrus fruits instead.
  3. Tomatoes and tomato-based products: Tomatoes are acidic and can cause heartburn. This includes products like tomato sauce, ketchup, and salsa.
  4. Fatty and fried foods: Foods high in fat can relax the LES, allowing stomach acid to flow back into the esophagus. Avoid fried foods, high-fat dairy products, and fatty cuts of meat.
  5. Chocolate: Chocolate contains both caffeine and fat, which can trigger reflux. It’s best to enjoy it in moderation or avoid it altogether if you are prone to heartburn.
  6. Caffeine: Caffeinated beverages like coffee, tea, and soda can relax the LES and stimulate acid production. Switch to herbal teas or decaffeinated versions to reduce symptoms.
  7. Carbonated beverages: The bubbles in carbonated drinks can cause the stomach to expand, increasing pressure on the LES and leading to heartburn. Water or non-carbonated drinks are better choices.
  8. Alcohol: Alcohol can relax the LES and irritate the esophagus, making it a common heartburn trigger. Limiting alcohol intake can help prevent symptoms.

Practical tips for heartburn management

In addition to choosing the right foods, certain eating habits and lifestyle changes can significantly impact heartburn management.

  1. Eat smaller, more frequent meals: Large meals can increase pressure on the LES, so opt for smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day.
  2. Stay upright after eating: Lying down after eating can cause acid to flow back into the esophagus. Try to stay upright for at least two to three hours after meals.
  3. Elevate your head while sleeping: Elevating the head of your bed can help prevent nighttime heartburn by keeping stomach acid in the stomach.
  4. Maintain a healthy weight: Excess weight puts pressure on the abdomen, pushing stomach contents into the esophagus. Maintaining a healthy weight can reduce this risk.
  5. Avoid tight clothing: Tight clothing around the waist can squeeze the stomach, encouraging acid reflux. Wear loose-fitting clothes to reduce pressure.
  6. Monitor food triggers: Keep a food diary to identify and avoid specific foods that trigger your heartburn.


Managing heartburn effectively involves understanding which foods to eat and avoid. By incorporating heartburn-friendly foods into your diet and making mindful lifestyle changes, you can significantly reduce the frequency and severity of heartburn episodes. Remember that individual food responses can vary, so it may take some trial and error to determine what works best for you. By staying informed and proactive, you can enjoy your meals without the discomfort of heartburn.