Foods to avoid if you suffer from heartburn – and some that could help

If you're someone who struggles with indigestion or heartburn, it's worth knowing which foods could be potential triggers. We've pulled together a list of what to avoid to dodge the burn.

If you find yourself left with an uncomfortable feeling of burning in your chest and throat after eating, you may be suffering from heartburn, or reflux. This sensation is caused by a buildup of acid reflux in the stomach, says dietitian and nutritionist Gabrielle Maston. It occurs in individuals with weakened sphincter muscles that connect the oesophagus to the stomach, allowing acid to move freely into the food pipe.

Gabrielle says there a few lifestyle changes you can make to help reduce the affect of your stomach acid, including ensuring you maintain a healthy weight, as excess body fat can cause abdominal pressure that impacts the sphincter muscles. Pregnancy may also affect the strength of your sphincter muscles and further enhance heartburn.

However, there are a specific list foods most doctors and dietitians recommend avoiding, as these have been shown to aggravate the already existing reflux, says Gabrielle.

roast pumpkin and lentil salad

For a light, stomach-friendly meal, try this roast pumpkin and lentil salad.

What foods should I avoid?

“Acidic foods, coffee or caffeinated drinks and spices further irritate and inflame the lower oesophagus,” says Gabrielle. These should be avoided if you’re someone who struggles with heartburn or acid reflux after eating.

Some naturally acidic foods to watch include tomatoes, oranges and other citrus fruits. High fat foods like butter, oil, avocado and nuts can also wreak havoc on the digestive track, as can spices and herbs like garlic, onion, pepper, chilli and peppermint.

And if you consider yourself a meat-lover, your juicy steak could also be inducing a bout of heartburn due to it’s high fat content. You’ll also want to give your glass of red wine the flick, as alcohol has been linked to aggravating acid reflux.

Keep it light and low-carb with this barbecued squid salad recipe.

What should I be eating?

As it’s a mechanical problem with your sphincter, there are currently no foods which are suggested to be used as a treatment for heartburn. Sometimes people find starchy food like dried crackers, rice and potato helps to relieve symptoms, but this is yet to be proven and is not synonymous across all patients. “I’ve had some clients who get reflux from just drinking water or not having anything at all. Others feel they get relief on a lower carb diet; no one is the same,” says Gabrielle.

However, as a general rule, people with acid reflux are recommended to eat a normal healthy diet with fruits and veggies, whole grains and lean meats, eat smaller meals, maintain a healthy body weight and not recline after eating.

For more diet and exercise tips and tricks, visit

Related stories