The first time you experience heartburn it can be terrifying if you’re not sure what’s going on. A sudden, shooting pain right through your chest? No, thanks. But once you understand what heartburn is and what makes it happen, you can take steps to prevent it from happening again. There are plenty of foods out there that not only prevent heartburn from happening in the first place; they can help stop heartburn dead in its tracks.
So what exactly is heartburn? According to WebMD, it begins when you eat a ‘trigger’ food, something that’s usually greasy, spicy, or acidic. Stomach acids get to work on breaking it down, but sometimes not all of the stomach acid stays in your stomach. It travels up and bypasses what’s called the esophageal sphincter (a valve-like ring of muscle that’s supposed to remain tightly closed when it’s not letting food into your stomach), and makes its way into the esophagus, a process called acid reflux. Heartburn is the most common symptom of acid reflux, characterized by a burning discomfort in the chest, an unpleasant taste in the back of your mouth, and difficulty swallowing.
Heartburn can strike anyone, but it usually happens to those who are overweight, eat big meals, and/or wear tight-fitting clothes. Not only is heartburn uncomfortable, it’s also dangerous, and has the potential to lead to esophageal cancer.
The best way to avoid getting heartburn is to change up your routine: stop eating a few hours before you go to sleep, avoid late-night snacks, eat smaller meals, and avoid trigger foods, which differ from person to person but usually include fatty foods, spicy food, and acidic foods like citrus and tomatoes. Alcohol, coffee, soda, and orange juice can also trigger heartburn. You should also take time to chew your food thoroughly and slowly, because the more you chew the less work your stomach has to do.
While you can avoid foods in order to prevent heartburn, certain foods help prevent it, and work for a variety of reasons. Some are very low in acid, others help soak up excess acid, others contain the fiber that keeps your gastrointestinal tract moving.
Just about every green or root vegetable is great for heartburn. Celery, for example, is a great appetite suppressant and is a great source of roughage, which keeps things moving.
Whole grain foods contain loads of fiber, which eases heartburn because it keeps foods moving through your digestive tract.
Beans are also full of fiber.
Oatmeal is ideal for those who suffer from heartburn because it’s filling and has essentially no acid.
Ginger is great for acid reflux: it’s an anti-inflammatory and has also been used for thousands of years to treat gastrointestinal issues.
Melon, including honeydew, cantaloupe, and watermelon, is an ideal food for those looking to keep heartburn at bay.
Another low-acid fruit, they’re also a good choice.
Salads are loaded with green goodness and are a great source of roughage. You’d be hard-pressed to meet someone who got heartburn after eating a salad; just make sure that it’s not loaded up with cheese and oily dressing.
Pretzels and other dry foods like crackers and plain toast are also great for those suffering from heartburn. The digestive process stirs up a lot of stomach acid, and these foods can actually help reduce it by soaking it up.
Fennel improves stomach function and has a very low acid level, so it’s great to incorporate into your diet and use to keep heartburn down.
Parsley has been used to settle stomachs and aid digestion for thousands of years, and can work wonders on heartburn.