Best Foods for Acid Reflux and Heartburn
Whether a ‘burning sensation’ in your chest keeps you awake at night or stops you from enjoying your tea, you’re not alone - 1 in 4 people in the UK regularly deal with the discomfort of acid reflux or heartburn.
In most cases, heartburn is nothing to worry about. It is simply when stomach acid travels back up your throat, which we don’t even notice most of the time. The ‘burning sensation’ can be exacerbated, however, by not elevating your head when lying down, stress or anxiety, and – the main focus of this article – dietary choices.
Read on to find out what foods help acid reflux go away, which heartburn foods to avoid, and some general tips for managing heartburn on a day-to-day basis.
What’s the difference between acid reflux and heartburn?
While acid reflux and heartburn terms are often used interchangeably, they are in fact different things.
An acid reflux refers to stomach acid or stomach contents travelling up towards the throat, whilst heartburn is the feeling of burning sensation in the chest, caused by acid reflux. So, in short, heartburn is a symptom of an acid reflux.
List of foods to eat with acid reflux
1. Low-acid leafy greens
Foods that help with heartburn typically fall into two categories – those with low acid and those with high fibre. The low acid content keeps those discomforting symptoms at bay, while the fibre helps to better regulate digestion.
Leafy greens tick both of those boxes. This means you should look to add these superfoods (think spinach and broccoli) to your diet, where possible.
If you’re looking to add more leafy greens to your shopping list, the best foods for acid reflux include:
- Collard greens.
- Brussel sprouts.
- Leaf lettuce.
- Mustard greens.
2. High-fibre foods
Leafy greens are not the only high-fibre foods that help with heartburn – there are a whole host of small swaps you can make to keep those discomforting symptoms at bay.
For example, switching white bread toast for wholegrain is a nice and easy breakfast idea, while swapping chips (which is a food to avoid with acid reflux) for sweet potato wedges can help you better manage the symptoms.
See, below, for a list of foods to eat with acid reflux that are high in fibre:
- Wholegrain bread.
- Sweet potatoes.
3. Low-fat, lean proteins
You already know that protein is important for building and repairing muscle tissue, but are you aware they count amongst the best foods for heartburn too?
Low-fat, lean sources of protein, in particular, are great for reducing the symptoms of heartburn. Not only do these protein-rich foods tend to be more filling – which can discourage the overeating that leads to acid reflux – but protein takes longer to digest and slows down the emptying on the stomach.
The best foods for heartburn that have a high-protein intake include:
- Skinless chicken.
- Skinless turkey.
4. Water and water-rich foods
While most of this list of foods to eat with acid reflux is about, well, foods – you shouldn’t forget the importance of drinking plenty of water to help with digestion.
Staying properly hydrated by drinking 6 to 8 glasses of water a day ensures food passes properly through your digestive system, reducing the likelihood of experiencing acid reflux. You can also manage the discomfort of heartburn by taking regular small sips of water throughout the day.
To make sure you’re getting as much hydration as possible, also consider adding these water-rich foods that help with heartburn:
- Broth based soups.
Foods to avoid with acid reflux
There are plenty of foods that help acid reflux go away – but what about those foods that exacerbate heartburn and cause those burning sensation flare ups?
And while it can vary from person to person, fatty, oily, spicy, and sugary foods are the most common triggers for acid reflux. That’s because they linger longer in your stomach, making it more likely that acid leaks back up to your throat.
Some of the most common heartburn foods to avoid include:
- Coffee and caffeinated tea.
- Processed food.
- Fizzy drinks.
- High acidic fruits.
- Fried foods.
How to manage acid reflux and heartburn
Whether you’re adding foods that help with heartburn or keeping an eye out for those foods to avoid with acid reflux, watching what you eat can go a long way to helping alleviate symptoms.
However, there are also slight lifestyle tweaks you can make to help manage the discomfort of heartburn, including:
Continue to eat regular meals: While food can be the cause of acid reflux, not eating enough can also contribute to the symptoms. When you let your body go hungry, the acid in your stomach builds up and that can cause a heartburn flare up.
Eat little and often: Overeating can stop the top of your stomach from closing properly, making it easier for that reflux-causing stomach acid to travel up to your throat. It might be best to opt for the ‘little and often’ approach. If you’ve got a busy work schedule, try packing some small snack-sized boxes, filled with foods for acid reflux, so you can graze as you go.
Eat at least two hours before bed: Even with foods that help heartburn, eating late at night and then going straight to bed does not give your body a chance to properly digest your meal. Instead, digestion is best aided when the body is in an upright position – sitting or standing – so it’s best to eat 2 to 3 hours before bed.
Eat a balanced diet: Eating a healthy, balanced diet and getting all the necessary vitamins and nutrients is always beneficial for your physical and mental health. Acid reflux and heartburn is no exception to this.
Limit alcohol consumption: Not only is alcohol acidic, but it can also relax your low oesophageal sphincter – which causes acid in your stomach to travel back up to your oesophagus. If you’re regularly experiencing heartburn, assess and potentially limit how much alcohol you drink throughout the week.
Practice stress-relief techniques: Did you know that stress and anxiety are linked to heartburn and acid reflux, causing flare-ups and worsening symptoms? Well, you can minimise this impact by practicing stress-busting techniques or finding ways to deal with anxiety, such as exercising, socialising, and getting enough sleep.
When to see a GP about acid reflux or heartburn
While acid reflux and heartburn typically go away on their own in time, there are some cases that may require a bit more medical attention. If you are also suffering the following symptoms, it may be best to contact your GP:
Changes to your diet and over-the-counter medicines are not helping your acid reflux or heartburn.
You have acid reflux or heartburn most days and it has been three or more weeks since it started.
Food is getting stuck in your throat.
You are frequently throwing up.
You are losing weight for no reason.
Similarly, if you feel like your mental health is contributing to your acid reflux, your GP can offer support and advice on how you can manage both sets of symptoms and reduce your discomfort.
If acid reflux and heartburn has left you feeling low and anxious, or you want to try new and tasty nutritious meals using foods that help with heartburn, then check out our Be Healthy hub for more information.