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Last Updated on December 17, 2023
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Heartburn occurs when stomach acid streams back into your gut due to a weakened or malfunctioning muscle along the esophageal sphincter. Also known as acid reflux, heartburn can cause pain and even damage the tissues in the throat if it’s severe enough.
If you’re prone to acid reflux, enjoying your favorite foods and drinks can be difficult. And while over-the-counter treatments can help alleviate heartburn symptoms, using these products daily can have adverse side effects on your body.
Luckily, you can avoid heartburn by keeping off certain trigger foods.
Spicy foods that contain capsaicin, a chemical that makes chili peppers hot, are common heartburn triggers. When capsaicin enters the stomach, it relaxes the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), making stomach contents rise into the esophagus.
In addition to chili peppers, other spicy foods like curry, cumin, and ginger may also trigger acid reflux. So, if you’re sensitive to spices, it’s best to eliminate them from your diet.
Greasy, fatty foods are also a leading heartburn trigger. When you consume high-fat foods, your body may produce certain substances, including bile salts, which may relax the LES, causing acid reflux.
Fatty foods also take longer to digest, which can keep the stomach acid churning and cause irritation. Examples of common high-fat foods include fried chicken, cheeseburgers, fatty cuts of meat, and bacon.
This might not be good news for wine lovers, but alcoholic drinks like wine, beer, and liquor can trigger acid reflux. In fact, if you take alcohol five times a week or more, you are twice as likely to experience heartburn than someone who rarely drinks.
Heartburn caused by alcohol may be worse if you drink on an empty stomach or mix different types of liquor. Therefore, stick to one brand and ensure your stomach is full before sipping your favorite drink.
Sugary Foods and Drinks
If you like sipping on a fruity cocktail or sinking your teeth into a sugary dessert, this might be something you want to hear.
Too much sugar in your diet might cause indigestion problems, resulting in an increase in acidity in your digestive system. And when the acidity levels in your gut are high, you will likely experience acid reflux.
Excess sugar also promotes the growth of harmful bacteria in your esophagus, which can increase stomach acid production.
Tomatoes and Tomato Sauces
Tomatoes and tomato sauces are common ingredients that might be hard to avoid. However, their acidity can cause heartburn, indigestion, and reflux.
If you love tomatoes but find they give you heartburn, try cooking them instead of eating them raw. You can also look for low-acid tomato products.
Which Foods Should You Eat Instead?
While fatty and spicy foods, alcohol, and sugar can increase your chances of experiencing acid reflux, the good news is many other diet options can help prevent this problem. Some of these include oatmeal, green vegetables, and watery foods.
Oatmeal, a great fiber source, reduces heartburn by absorbing stomach acid. On the other hand, green vegetables are packed with antioxidants and are low in acidity, making them a perfect choice for anyone suffering from acid reflux.
Lastly, to dilute stomach acid, you can take watery foods such as watermelon, herbal tea, and cucumber.
Can Heartburn Medications Help?
People with heartburn may take over-the-counter (OTC) antacids or prescription medications to relieve their symptoms. Some OTCs include H2 blockers and proton pump inhibitors (PPIs).
While OTCs have been known to treat heartburn effectively, studies show that some medications, such as Zantac, can cause serious side effects, including cancer. In fact, the risk of cancer from Zantac use is so high that the FDA had to stop the manufacture and distribution of Zantac products.
If you are worried about developing side effects as a result of taking PPIs for long periods, talk to your physician about different treatment options. Most importantly, if you or your loved one have developed cancer symptoms caused by Zantac, consult a product liability lawyer and learn the legal actions, you might take.