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Top 10 Heartburn Foods

From coffee to grapefruit -- helpful tips for avoiding those enticing foods that may just trigger your heartburn.
By
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

You know it all too well. Heartburn. That fiery sensation that grabs hold of your lower chest after you eat something you know you shouldn't have. What often follows is that sour or bitter taste of acid reflux in your throat and mouth that can last minutes (if you are lucky) or hours (if you are not).

Yes, millions of us are familiar with the discomfort of heartburn, a condition in which stomach acids back up into the esophagus. The good news is that heartburn is largely avoidable if you steer clear of the top 10 heartburn foods. It also helps to avoid certain classic heartburn-inviting situations.

From coffee and liquor to tomatoes and grapefruit, experts tell WebMD that certain foods are known heartburn triggers.

Here's what you need to know about the top 10 heartburn foods.

Heartburn and Tangy Citrus Fruits

Oranges, grapefruits and orange juice are classic heartburn foods. "These are very acidic," says Robynne Chutkan, MD. Chutkan is the founder of the Digestive Center for Women in Chevy Chase, Md. and a gastroenterologist at Georgetown Hospital in Washington, D.C. "As a result of being so acidic," she says, "they are likely to cause heartburn, especially when consumed on an otherwise empty stomach."

Heartburn and Tomatoes

While they might be chockfull of healthy nutrients like lycopene, Chutkan tells WebMD that tomatoes are also highly acidic and likely to cause heartburn in those who are prone to it.

The acid antidote may be a sour ball, according to Daniel Mausner, MD. Mausner is the section head of gastroenterology at Mercy Medical Center in Rockville Center, N.Y. "Things that promote saliva -- like sour balls -- are good for acid reflux," he says, "because saliva neutralizes the acid that comes up from your stomach."

Heartburn and Garlic and Onion

Bonnie Taub-Dix, MA, RD, says, "Some people with heartburn do not do well with either garlic or onion." Taub-Dix, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association, is a nutritionist in private practice in New York City and Woodmere, N.Y. "It's all very individual," she says. For avoiding heartburn, she offers the following suggestion: "Keep a food log to help you track the foods that are your heartburn offenders, and try to develop a list of safe foods." Foods like broiled chicken, baked sweet potatoes, toast, or cottage cheese, she says, are on the safe side of the heartburn food list.

Heartburn and Spicy Foods

Pepper, Mexican food, chili, and any other food that is loaded with pepper or other spices can trigger heartburn, says Deepa A. Vasudevan, MD. Vasudevan is an assistant professor of family medicine at The University of Texas Medical School at Houston. He tells WebMD that avoiding heartburn isn't necessarily a matter of all or nothing. "If spicy food triggers your heartburn, avoid it. Then slowly reintroduce milder versions of whatever you like."

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