To lower the risk of having heartburn, frequent sufferers should avoid "trigger foods" such as fried food, spicy food, acidic food, coffee, chocolate and alcohol. Heartburn-triggering foods can vary greatly between people, and not all of these foods trigger heartburn in everyone.
High-fat foods are the primary cause of heartburn. These include meat, fried food, brownies, cookies and other similar foods. These foods cause heartburn by weakening the lower esophageal sphincter, allowing acid from the stomach to enter the esophagus. These foods also stay in the stomach longer, which also contributes to heartburn.
Citrus fruits and tomatoes are another common cause of heartburn. These include oranges, grapefruit, pineapple, lemons and any tomato-based product, such as salsa or pizza sauce. These foods contribute to heartburn due to their high acid content.
Spicy foods, including garlic and onions, trigger or worsen heartburn in some people, but not everyone. Some spices may be more triggering than others, and this varies among people.
Drinks such as coffee and alcohol are known heartburn triggers and should be avoided to lessen symptoms. Milk and other creamy drinks have long been thought to relieve heartburn, but they only relieve symptoms for a short time, after which they increase acid production in the stomach, worsening heartburn.