Heartburn is a very common condition and can be prevented or kept under control through the consumption of certain specific foods. Let’s see what to eat and what to avoid.
Heartburn is one of the most common symptoms of gastrointestinal discomfort, often associated with unhealthy eating habits or a bad lifestyle. This discomfort can appear both shortly after the meal, and away from the meal, when we have fasted for too long.
It presents as a burning sensation and / or pain in the retrosternal position, at the beginning of the stomach. Very often this sensation can be confused with a heart problem due to the proximity of the position and can therefore cause a lot of concern. Also for this reason it is important to follow a healthy lifestyle, and to know any foods to avoid or prefer, in order to limit or exclude heartburn episodes.
Why does heartburn come?
It is generally a condition that most people may experience sporadically over the course of their lives as a result of excessively large or high-fat meals and seasonings. If we investigate well, other errors can be considered the cause of heartburn: it often occurs when you go to bed immediately after a meal, but it can also be connected to a strong emotion or a particularly stressful period.
Some physiological conditions can then be normally associated with heartburn: among them we remember pregnancy. Many women, in fact, experience this symptom during the 9 months of gestation, especially towards the end of pregnancy, when the uterus, now at its maximum size, compresses the stomach.
In some cases, however, this symptom can become chronic and therefore be the signal of another more or less serious condition such as gastritis, gastroesophageal reflux or peptic ulcer.
What are the foods that cause burning?
It is inevitable to ask if there is a food that causes heartburn, but today we know that it is not the single food that can be considered the cause, but the lifestyle as a whole. However, once an inflammatory condition of the stomach and / or esophagus sets in, certain foods can worsen symptoms, and therefore increase heartburn. Among the foods most indicated in the literature as triggers we find very fatty foods, acidic foods, foods that are too spicy, citrus fruits, tomatoes, chocolate, coffee, carbonated drinks and alcohol.
Heartburn: what to eat and drink?
Before listing the foods to avoid with heartburn, let’s find out together what to eat and how to behave to improve our state of well-being. In general, in case of stomach acid it is recommended to increase the frequency of meals and, vice versa, to reduce the amount of food consumed at each meal. As we have anticipated, it is also important to avoid having meals in the late evening, just before going to bed for the night.
Regarding the diet, it is important to underline that studies have shown that an increased intake of fiber is linked to an improvement in heartburn and all symptoms related to gastroesophageal reflux. Foods rich in fiber are vegetables, whole grains and legumes, which can therefore be included regularly in one’s diet.
Among the most recommended protein foods are the lean ones: meat, fish and fresh dairy products. In particular, the relationship between yogurt and stomach acid was studied, concluding that low- fat yogurt should not be missing in the diet in case of heartburn. An advantage of yogurt is also that of containing probiotic organisms, also linked to an improvement in burning and, more generally, in reflux symptoms.
Finally, we also mention fermented soy-based foods (eg miso or tempeh) which could, if consumed regularly, help reduce the frequency of heartburn episodes.
As for what to drink, water (possibly at room temperature and not sparkling) or herbal teas based on mallow, fennel seeds, chamomile or linden is definitely recommended. Fruit and vegetable extracts are also good, as long as there are no citrus fruits or hot spices in it.
Stomach acidity: foods to avoid
Let’s explore together what to avoid, at least initially, to improve heartburn: we will focus not only on individual foods, but also on incorrect habits.
First of all, a correct habit is not to drink too much water during the meal: excess fluids, in fact, could lead to an excessive dilution of gastric juices, slowing down digestion and increasing the risk of developing the symptom. It is also good to be careful not to consume too cold or too hot drinks, limit carbonated drinks and alcoholic beverages. In fact, excessive alcohol consumption is linked to the development of stomach acid.
As far as fruit and vegetables are concerned, great limitations are not recommended, but generally it is suggested not to eat tomatoes, citrus fruits and drinks or sauces deriving from these foods. The lemon, among all citrus fruits, turns out to be the best tolerated (always, however, in moderate quantities).
Also in order to avoid an excess of water, we suggest not boiling the vegetables, but choosing other cooking methods: baked, steamed or in a pan.
With heartburn you can eat both meat and fish, but it is good to prefer lean cuts and quick cooking. In fact, very fatty foods (such as ribs, sausages, salmon) or slow cooking (such as stews or braised meats) are not recommended. Eggs can also be eaten, but avoid overcooking the egg yolk, so as to make it more easily digestible.
Finally, as regards the condiments, it is suggested to avoid spicy spices and in general the excess of oil, butter or other vegetable fats. Also avoid ending the meal with coffee (or consuming it on an empty stomach) or chocolate, which are also foods that can increase stomach acid.
Stomach acidity: table of foods yes and foods no
We have therefore seen in the previous two paragraphs what the heartburn diet consists of: it is preferable to limit some foods such as all fatty foods and acidic drinks and instead prefer leaner and more fiber-rich foods. In the table below you will find a summary of what has been said in the previous paragraphs, so as to always have a complete list of what to eat and what to avoid in case of stomach acid.
|Foods to avoid or reduce:||Foods to prefer:|
|Citrus fruits, especially orange and grapefruit juice||Whole grains such as whole wheat, buckwheat, barley, spelled, brown rice|
|Tomatoes, especially raw||Vegetables, especially those richest in fiber such as cabbage, fennel, asparagus. Limit the consumption of boiled vegetables and prefer cooking in steam, in the oven or in a pan|
|Alcoholic||Low-fat yogurt and dairy products|
|Carbonated drinks||Legumes and fermented soy products|
|Coffee||Mallow and ginger-based drinks, preferably between meals|
|Oily cuts of meat or fish or slow cooking||Meat and fish, preferring lean cuts and quick cooking|
|All fried or over-seasoned foods|
|Spicy foods or spices|
Heartburn: practical example of an ideal diet
Let’s see together in this paragraph how to develop a diet that can improve stomach acid. We remind you, however, that each diet should be personalized because our needs are unique. Below we will report the 3 main meals, but we remind you that it is also recommended to consume snacks, in order to divide the diet over at least 5 meals a day and limit the quantities of food eaten at a single meal.
As for breakfast, we suggest you pay attention to the consumption of very hot drinks, the consumption of tea or coffee, which in some cases can worsen stomach acid.
It is preferable to have a dry breakfast based, for example, on wholemeal or semi-toasted bread or rusks with tahini sauce. Another option for a savory breakfast is to accompany the toast with lean sliced meat or an egg with simple cooking.
For a sweet breakfast you can opt for a low- fat white yogurt, to be accompanied if necessary with whole grains, fruit and a sprinkling of oil seeds.
We advise you to be careful not to eat a large lunch, especially if you have little time for lunch. In fact, it is important to take the time to carefully chew every bite of the meal. Try to avoid overly seasoned first courses or meat dishes cooked for too long or even salads full of fatty foods (tuna in oil, fatty cheeses).
If you are lucky enough to be able to have lunch at home you could choose a plate of whole grains of your choice seasoned with vegetables. If, on the other hand, you eat lunch at a restaurant or in hot or cold tables, you prefer a carpaccio of bresaola or lean meat cooked on the grill and accompanied by cooked vegetables, also grilled.
As for dinner, be careful not to eat it very late, just before going to sleep. If you do not have a choice, we advise you to have a very light dinner, with reduced quantities of dishes, possibly increasing the other 4 meals per day. Also in this case you can choose to consume whole grains with vegetables, lean meat or fish or dishes based on legumes.
Heartburn: 5 foods against acidity that help get it through
Finally, let’s see some foods that help to pass heartburn and that you can then take as needed.
Apples, especially non – acidic ones, help calm heartburn. Thanks to its qualities, consuming an apple during a burning episode will help reduce it in a short time. In addition, the apple is a highly beneficial fruit, rich in fiber, minerals and vitamins.
Yogurt is a food that we have already mentioned, but which is really valid in the management of heartburn. We therefore suggest that you include it in your diet, choosing lean foods and avoiding overly processed products on an industrial level.
3. Cabbage juice
Cabbage juice is considered a good natural remedy for heartburn, to be used even on an empty stomach or a few tens of minutes before main meals. In fact, cabbage juice seems to have anti-inflammatory and healing properties and can be used (obviously in addition to the medical therapies suggested by the specialist) even in the case of a peptic ulcer.
4. Apple cider vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is a food capable of rebalancing the levels of acids produced in the stomach. Precisely for this reason, for some people it can be very useful to prevent post-prandial stomach acid and promote digestion. It is taken before meals diluted in a little water. It is also able to improve the microbiota and is still preferable to the consumption of wine vinegar.
Thanks to the presence of bromelain, pineapple is a fruit with digestive properties and therefore can be considered a useful food to soothe heartburn. It is possible to consume one or two slices of pineapple at the end of the meal to make the most of this property.