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

You should look to add these superfoods (think spinach and broccoli) to your diet, where possible.

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.

3. Low-fat, lean proteins

legumes, low-fat dairy, as well as lean meats, fish or plant proteins like tofu or quinoa,

4. Water and water-rich foods

To make sure you’re getting as much hydration as possible, also consider adding these water-rich foods that help with heartburn:

  • Cucumbers.
  • Watermelons.
  • Broth based soups.
  • Watercress.
  • Peaches.

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.
  • Alcohol.
  • Chocolate.
  • Processed food.
  • Fizzy drinks.
  • Peppermint.
  • 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.