Diet Tips for Managing Your Heartburn or Acid Reflux

man suffering heart burn and acid reflux
Many people experience heartburn.  There are steps you can take to help reduce heartburn pain and get relief from your symptoms. Read on to learn more.

What is heartburn?

Heartburn is when the acid in your stomach comes back up into the esophagus. This causes a “burning” feeling in your chest. Heartburn is also called acid reflux.

How can I manage heartburn?

Avoid food and drinks that may cause heartburn including:

  • Higher fat foods like deep fried foods, high fat desserts and snacks, and high fat meat and dairy products
  • Acidic foods like citrus (lemon, lime, orange, grapefruit) and tomato products (sauce, soup and paste etc.)
  • Spices, especially chili, cayenne and black pepper
  • Peppermint
  • Chocolate
  • Garlic and onions
  • Carbonated beverages
  • Caffeinated beverages like coffee, tea, energy drinks and pop
  • Alcohol

What causes heartburn is different for each person. The research on specific food triggers that cause heartburn is limited. Try keeping track of what you eat and when, so you know what your triggers are. 

Pay attention to how and when you eat:

  • Eat smaller meals
  • Avoid lying down for 2 to 3 hours after eating

More tips 

Over the long term, these lifestyle tips may help to reduce how often you experience heartburn. 

  • Eat a variety of healthy foods each day that includes vegetables and fruits, whole grains and proteins. Try this one pan lemon pepper fish and veggies served with brown rice for a quick and balanced meal.
  • Move more - be physically active more often and reduce time sitting.
  • Ready to think about quitting smoking? There are several health benefits, including limiting heartburn.
  • Avoid clothing that is tight across your stomach.
  • Raise the head of your bed 7-8 inches when sleeping. Try "bed blocks" or special foam wedges. Pillows may not be enough as they raise only your head. Your esophagus should be higher than your stomach.

Is heartburn the same as Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)?

No. Many people have heartburn once in a while, especially after eating certain foods.  When heartburn becomes a frequent problem, it may be Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD). Heartburn is the most common symptom of GERD.

What if diet and lifestyle changes don’t help my heartburn?

If you have symptoms more than three times a week or if lifestyle changes and/or over the counter antacids are not helping, speak with your healthcare provider. 

How can a dietitian help?

A dietitian can help identify any possible food triggers causing your heartburn. They will work with you to plan a balanced diet that meets your needs and considers your lifestyle, medical history, culture, budget and preferences. Connect with a dietitian today!

Bottom line

There is no special diet for heartburn. What causes heartburn is different for everyone. You may consider keeping track of what and when you eat and drink to help identify any possible food triggers. Eating smaller balanced meals and being physically active will often help reduce heartburn. 

You may also be interested in:

Managing Gas
What You Should Know about Ulcers
Facts on Caffeine
This article was written and reviewed by dietitians from Dietitians of Canada.

Last Update – March 24, 2023

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