Eating and drinking are some of the simple pleasures of life – but sometimes the delicious meal we have just eaten results in the discomfort of heartburn and acid reflux.
The painful, burning sensation of heartburn is due to stomach acid rising, or refluxing, into the oesophagus (the tube connecting your throat and stomach). For some people, heartburn can be triggered by eating certain foods, while for others there may be different factors at play or sometimes there are a combination of factors.
If you think your heartburn is triggered by food it may be helpful to keep a diary and note down what foods you have eaten and when your heartburn occurs. Keep an eye on other factors such as eating late at night, before exercising, meal size or the amount of fluids taken with your meal. These are all factors that can trigger acid reflux or make heartburn symptoms worse.
Here are five common foods that have been suggested as possible reflux triggers in some people. You can use the list as a starting point to help figure out your personal heartburn food triggers. Once identified simply avoiding the trigger foods or eating them in moderation may be all that’s needed to help control your reflux. But, remember it’s important not to exclude too many foods from your diet as you need a wide range of nutrients for a healthy body.
Certain foods, such as coffee, may trigger acid reflux as they can affect the muscle ring (or sphincter) at the top of the stomach. This oesophageal sphincter muscle stops fluids rising up from the stomach into the oesophagus. If the muscle relaxes at the wrong time stomach acid can escape and irritate the oesophagus lining resulting in heartburn.
Although coffee has been identified as a potential cause of heartburn in some people, the relationship between coffee and acid reflux is not clear-cut. Try cutting down the amount of coffee you drink or eliminating it all together to see if it makes a difference to your heartburn.
Chocolate is another food that is often thought to be linked to heartburn and acid reflux. It is high in fat which can slow down stomach emptying and is high in caffeine which can relax the oesophageal sphincter muscle. So while chocolate may be deliciously appealing, it might not be your best go-to comfort food.
Acidic fruit and vegetables
While fruit and vegetables may be the healthy diet choice, if they are naturally high in acid they can also bring on the discomfort of heartburn. You may want to keep an eye on the number of oranges, lemons, grapefruit and tomatoes that you have in your diet.
Some people find eating fatty foods can make their reflux symptoms worse. Fatty foods tend to take longer to digest and slow down stomach emptying. Foods with a high fat content can sometimes cause problems if you eat them quickly or along with carbonated drinks, alcohol or coffee.
Enjoying a glass of wine or beer with your meal may be your way of relaxing, but it may have the same effect on your oesophageal sphincter muscle! If the muscle ring becomes too relaxed food and acid can reflux back up the oesophagus.
Working out your food triggers can help you take control of your heartburn. In the meantime, remember to pack some over-the-counter medications, such as Zantac, for when you need relief from heartburn symptoms.
ALWAYS READ THE LABEL. USE ONLY AS DIRECTED. IF SYMPTOMS PERSIST, SEE YOUR HEALTHCARE PROFESSIONAL.