Suffering from heartburn? Try these food tips for welcome relief

A man in pain holding his stomach
A man in pain holding his stomach
Image: Andriy Popov/123RF

Heartburn, that painful burning sensation in the throat or chest that normally occurs after eating. Either you have experienced it, or you know someone who regularly complains of it.

Symptoms include pain or difficulty when swallowing, and a persistent sore throat. Bad breath or regurgitating food or fluids (causing an unpleasant sour taste in the mouth) can also be the result of heartburn.

But what exactly causes it?

Heartburn is a symptom of acid reflux, a condition that causes stomach acid to escape into the oesophagus. Under normal conditions, stomach acid can’t escape into the oesophagus because of a ring-like muscle, called the lower oesophageal sphincter, which naturally stays closed and normally opens when you swallow. This muscle is weaker in people with acid reflux, which is why they experience heartburn.

Although some people experience symptoms of acid reflux regardless of what they eat, others only get it after eating certain foods.

“Your diet plays an important role in heartburn as some foods can weaken the lower oesophageal sphincter, allowing food to escape into the oesophagus and cause heartburn,” says pharmacist Gert Coetzee, who developed The Diet Everyone Talks About.

So what kinds of foods should you eat or avoid if you suffer from heartburn? Here is a list:

Image: Supplied

Yes, you can eat me

  1. Green vegetables – When are green vegetables ever bad? Along with all their other great qualities, vegetables like broccoli, asparagus, celery and green beans are also low in acid.
  2. Fish – Poached, grilled or baked fish are all good choices, just don’t fry it.
  3. Oatmeal – Oatmeal or oats is both filling and does not cause reflux.
  4. Egg whites – Egg whites are a good source of protein and they are low in acid, meaning less chance of getting heartburn.
  5. Lean poultry – Chicken or turkey that is boiled, grilled or steamed is also good, but again, no frying.

Stay away from me!

  1. Spicy foods – We all know this one. Spicy food can irritate an already inflamed oesophagus, which can worsen heartburn symptoms.
  2. Alcohol – Yes, avoid alcohol. It can increase the amount of stomach acid, which can increase the risk of heartburn.
  3. High-fat foods – High-fat foods can cause heartburn as they may relax the lower oesophageal sphincter (the muscle that needs to stay closed). This allows the acid to escape from the stomach into the oesophagus, which can cause heartburn.
  4. Salt – Yes, even salt can be a risk factor for heartburn, as consuming salt or salty foods may increase acid reflux.
  5. Onions – What could the humble onion do, you ask? It can trigger heartburn, especially if it’s raw.

Note that if you experience heartburn at least two to three times a week, you may have gastroesophageal reflux disease and should consult with a doctor.

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