Summer Foods That Trigger Heartburn


Elaine Magee, MPH, RD, author of Tell Me What to Eat If I Have Acid Reflux and of a new DVD titled The Heartburn-Friendly Kitchen, tells that trigger foods vary from person to person.


People tend to know,” Liddle says. “They will say, ‘I get heartburn every time I eat pizza.

Just because it’s hot outside doesn’t mean you have to feel the heat of heartburn when enjoying foods of the season.

Some real culprits that turn up time and time again are:

  • Fatty meats and deep-fried foods (they stay in the stomach longer, giving acid more of a chance to wander)
  • Citrus
  • Chocolate
  • Peppermint
  • Excessive alcohol consumption (especially red wine)
  • Tomatoes (salsa, catsup)
  • Colas and coffee (caffeine and carbonation are both suspect)
  • Orange juice
  • Peppers
  • Garlic and onions

Some of these weaken the hold of the sphincter and some scratch at irritation that is already there.

Other foods can bloat your stomach and force the acid back up your throat. These include carbonated beverages.

A good rule of thumb is not to eat greasy meals and foods that are already chockfull of acid.

So What Can You Eat for a Heartburn-Free Summer?

The key to enjoying summer foods is to know what agrees with you, Magee says.

  • If grease bothers you, stick with grilled or raw foods.
  • Instead of tomatoes, load up your salads with carrots, beans, jicama, or other milder veggies.
  • If chocolate is a trigger, eat a few Kisses instead of a double helping of Death by Chocolate cake.
  • Burgers are OK, Magee says, but get the leanest cuts and dress with guacamole or something less acidic than catsup.
  • If carbonated drinks lead to late-night torture, stick with iced tea.
  • If Margaritas and you don’t get along, drink less or switch to a virgin strawberry type.
  • Watermelon can be acid-producing. Consign it to a mixed fruit salad only.
  • Eat smaller portions. Your stomach detects large amounts and pumps out more acid.

Just because it’s hot outside doesn’t mean you have to feel the heat of heartburn when enjoying foods of the season.

Other Tips for Preventing Heartburn

Both Liddle and Magee agree that when you eat and how much have a real effect on heartburn.

If you’re prone to heartburn, Magee recommends eating three to four hours before bedtime. “Often people won’t eat all day while they are running around in the heat,” she says. Then when they eat at night, they eat too much and then go to bed. This makes stomach contents more likely to splash up.”

If you are taking aspirin, pain meds, antibiotics, or iron, be extra cautious. These can set off heartburn.

Other ways to help drench your heartburn include:

  • Exercise as usual, but don’t eat before, during, or just after.
  • Lose weight if you are overweight.
  • Stop smoking (it not only stimulates acid production, but loosens the valve that protects your throat and can also reduce saliva production).
  • Elevate your bed with wedges.
  • Take over-the-counter medication. If you find you need something more than twice a week check with your doctor. You may need a prescription.
  • Relax! The stress doesn’t cause the heartburn, but it can cause you to gobble trigger foods.

If you get heartburn daily, despite lifestyle and eating changes, Liddle suggests consulting a physician.


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