11 Foods That Help Heartburn, According to Gastroenterologists
How to avoid heartburn
Heartburn is actually just another name for gastroesophageal reflux (GERD), or acid reflux for short. People call acid reflux "heartburn" because it literally feels like your chest is on fire, says Matthew Bechtold, MD, a gastroenterologist at University of Missouri Health Care. “Heartburn is the common term people use because they feel a burning sensation in the chest, but it’s really acid reflux coming up from your stomach into your esophagus and causing pain,” he explains.
But it's not just a burning sensation. According to Dr. Bechtold, people with acid reflux may also:
- Feel like food is coming back up into their throat;
- Have a chronic cough, especially at night when they’re laying down flat;
- Or have trouble swallowing because of inflammation in the esophagus.
As for why this happens, there’s a few reasons. Dr. Bechtold says that certain foods can relax the lower esophageal sphincter, allowing reflux to be brought back up into the esophagus more easily. Those foods, according to Rudolph Bedford, MD, a gastroenterologist at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California, are a trifecta he calls the “three big sins": “Caffeine, chocolate and alcohol—especially red wine—will all relax the lower esophageal muscles and allow acid to come back up,” he explains, adding that spicy foods and acidic foods such as tomatoes and citrus fruits are also common culprits.
Luckily, there are also foods to help you combat heartburn by either preventing it or helping to relieve it. Here, 11 foods you might want to consider adding to your diet to help cool the burn.
Yeah, oatmeal is kind of boring, but that’s also what makes it a good choice for heartburn. Dr. Bedford recommends waking up to a bowl of easily-digested oats for a reflux-free day.
Dr. Bedford recommends ginger as a dietary treatment for heartburn, and for good reason: It has a long history of medicinal use for digestive issues (hands up if you’ve ever chugged ginger ale to fight off an upset stomach). You can incorporate ginger into your diet no matter your personal preference: sliced or grated fresh into recipes, steeped in hot water for tea, or chewed on like candies.
RELATED: 7 Health Benefits of Ginger
You know aloe vera gel is good for your skin when it’s sunburned, but have you ever considered drinking aloe vera juice to relieve the burn of acid reflux? Dr. Bedford says many patients report finding it helpful. Some people get super Pinterest-y and blend up aloe juice or smoothies at home, but you can also save time and effort by grabbing the pre-made stuff at most health food stores.
Bananas are a smart, low-acid choice for getting your daily recommended serving of fruit, says Dr. Bedford. (You could really stack the deck in your favor by topping your oatmeal with some sliced banana.)
RELATED: 5 Reasons to Love Bananas
Just like bananas, melons are also low in acid, says Dr. Bedford. Reach for honeydew or cantaloupe instead of other fruit staples like grapefruits or oranges, which could aggravate your already-sensitive tummy.
RELATED: Mad About Melon: 8 Juicy Recipes
Chicken and turkey
Put down the big, greasy steak. Dr. Bedford says to choose lean meat options—like chicken and turkey without the skin or 90/10 ground beef—to avoid feeling like your chest is on fire after a meal.
Fish and seafood
You’ve got a lot of options when it comes to reflux-friendly seafood: shrimp, lobster, clams, fillet of sole. You also have a lot of options for cooking said seafood—you can grill, bake, or saute it. The only thing you shouldn’t do? Fry it, says Dr. Bedford—the extra grease could just aggravate your heartburn. Instead, toss shellfish with some whole wheat pasta or lay a few ounces of fish on a bed of brown rice for a yummy meal that leaves you not feeling the burn.
RELATED: 21 Healthy Seafood Recipes
For a heartburn remedy you can grow literally right on your windowsill, plant some parsley. Just like ginger, Dr. Bedford says parsley can soothe an ailing stomach. You can mix it into recipes or smoothies, or simply chew on a few of the leaves whenever reflux strikes.
According to Dr. Bedford, bread is pretty easy on the esophagus and isn’t likely to cause any discomfort. Make it even healthier by choosig a heart-whole grain option to amp up the fiber content.
RELATED: 18 Health Benefits of Whole Grains
Love avocado? You’re in luck. Dr. Bedford says that healthy fats like the ones found in avocados are way better (and less likely to cause heartburn) than the kind of fat you’ll find in french fries, queso, and bacon. You can also add healthy fats to your diet through reflux-friendly nuts, seeds, and eggs.
Working more veggies into your diet can solve quite a few health problems, so it’s no surprise that it works for heartburn, too. Dr. Bedford says that because vegetables—everything from leafy greens to peas and carrots—are so low in fat and sugar, there’s not much in them that could trigger reflux. Basically, salads are your friend.