Foods usually do not cause heartburn, but they can make it worse and cause problems. Some foods relax the muscle at the bottom of the esophagus (the tube that connects the throat to the stomach). When stomach acid backs up into the tube, it causes heartburn.

Foods affect people in different ways, so keep track of the foods you eat and how they affect you. Share what you learn with your care team.

These foods can often cause heartburn:

  • Acidic foods, such as:
    • Citrus foods, like oranges, grapefruits, and their juices
    • Tomatoes and tomato products
  • Fatty or greasy foods
  • Chocolates
  • Spicy foods
  • Alcohol
  • Drinks with caffeine, like coffee, soda, or tea
  • Some herbal products, like peppermint tea

Try to not to:

  • Eat close to your bedtime, leave a few hours between eating and bedtime
  • Lay down after you eat
  • Eat too much at one time. Try eating more small meals spaced out over the day.

If you are overweight, losing weight can help.

Smoking makes heartburn worse. It also raises your risk of cancer of the esophagus, especially if you drink alcohol. Talk to your care team about how you can quit.

Talk to your care team if it is hard for you to make these changes, or you have heartburn at least 2 days in a week. Many things that cause heartburn are easy to treat but ignoring them can lead to more serious problems.


American Gastroenterological Association

International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders


Canadian Institute for Health Information

Health Canada


Acid reflux. American College of Gastroenterology website. Available at: Accessed September 27, 2020.

Functional dyspepsia. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Accessed September 27, 2020.

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Accessed September 27, 2020.

Heartburn: Treatment. American Academy of Family Physicians Family Doctor website. Available at: Accessed September 27, 2020.

Last reviewed September 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board  Last Updated: 9/27/2020