Skip to main content
More than 60 million Americans have heartburn at least once a month. Find out what can trigger it.
reviewed 12/6/2019

Heartburn triggers. Can you avoid the burn?

Heartburn occurs when stomach acid flows back up the esophagus. But avoiding common triggers can help prevent the fiery sensation. Keep scrolling to learn more.

FOODS

  • Chocolate.
  • Citrus fruits.
  • Fatty or spicy foods.
  • Onions.
  • Peppermint or spearmint.
  • Tomatoes and tomato sauces.

FACT

Heartburn often occurs after overeating.

DRINKS

  • Alcohol.
  • Carbonated drinks.
  • Citrus juices.
  • Coffee and other caffeinated drinks.

FACT

Placing 6- to 9-inch blocks under the legs at the head of your bed can help prevent heartburn.

LIFESTYLE FACTORS

  • Being overweight.
  • Being under stress.
  • Smoking.
  • Taking certain medications.
  • Lying down too soon after eating.

FACT

There are many medications that can trigger heartburn. But don't stop taking them without talking to your doctor.

WHEN TO SEE A DOCTOR

Sometimes heartburn can be a sign of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or other conditions. See a doctor if you have any of these symptoms:
  • Frequent heartburn (more than 3 times a week for more than 2 weeks).
  • Heartburn that doesn't get better despite lifestyle changes and antacid medicines.
  • Trouble or pain when swallowing.
  • Bloody or black stool.
  • Dizziness or light-headedness.
  • Shortness of breath, coughing or hoarseness.
  • Sweating when you have pain in your chest.

Heartburn doesn't affect the heart. But the symptoms of a heart attack can sometimes be confused for heartburn.

Learn about heart attack symptoms

Sources: American Academy of Family Physicians; American College of Gastroenterology

Related stories