Heartburn is a medically important symptom of numerous gastrointestinal diseases. The culprit is stomach acid, which is either overproduced and can damage the stomach in the process, or mistakenly gets into the esophagus. Heartburn is promoted, among other things, by an improper diet. In the following we will tell you which foods to avoid if you have heartburn.

In this article you will learn:

  • What causes heartburn can have
  • How to find out the heartburn trigger or triggers
  • Which intolerances can lead to heartburn
  • Which foods to avoid for heartburn

Heartburn: these are possible causes

Chest pain and burning sensation, often accompanied by acid regurgitation, is most often heartburn. This symptom of various gastrointestinal diseases occurs when an  excess of stomach acid rises into the esophagus  and irritates the sensitive mucous membrane due to the high acid content  . The pain can extend into the throat and throat area, depending on the severity of the heartburn. Sometimes the stomach acid even reaches up into the mouth, which is noticeable to the person concerned as a sour taste.

Heartburn sometimes occurs as an accompanying symptom of diseases in the gastrointestinal tract (diaphragmatic hernia, gastric mucosal inflammation …), but often also occurs as a result of poor nutrition . Especially lavish meals, for example, favor heartburn (for this reason, heartburn has long been viewed as a disease of affluence), as well as individual intolerance to individual foods. Other trigger factors are the use of certain medications, stress, pregnancy or a dysfunction of the sphincter at the entrance to the stomach.

Do you have acute problems? Here is a 24-hour heartburn plan.

Foods Causes Heartburn: How To Find Out

To find out whether your heartburn is dependent on one or more foods or intolerance to them, it helps to approach the problem step by step. For example, keep a heartburn diary that can help you ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does heartburn always happen after a meal , maybe even after certain meals ?
  • Do factors such as stress or being in a hurry favor the symptoms?
  • Does it make a difference what time of day you eat?
  • Do certain foods make heartburn worse?
  • Do stimulants such as alcohol, nicotine or coffee or caffeine make the symptoms worse?
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If you can answer one or more of these questions with “yes” , the probability is high that the symptoms are related to diet or even to very specific foods. But be careful : Because of the many possible causes of heartburn, it is particularly important to know the reasons for the symptoms. This is the only way to take targeted action against it. On the other hand, following any tips from the Internet or from friends, on the other hand, is anything but advisable and can sometimes even worsen the symptoms. A visit to the family doctor is therefore always advisable.

Since heartburn can also be a symptom of various illnesses, changing your diet is not always key . The following diseases can trigger heartburn:

  • Reflux disease (link to article “Reflux oesophagitis – What is it …”)
  • Inflammation of the esophagus
  • Diaphragmatic hernia
  • Esophageal cancer
  • Stomach diseases

Important: You should consult your family doctor, especially if you have persistent symptoms , accompanied by symptoms such as weight loss and bleeding . He can decide whether the symptoms require further examination by a specialist and, if in doubt, refer you to a gastroenterologist. Detailed examinations of the esophagus and stomach can be carried out there.

More on the topic: How to recognize heartburn and fight the causes


Lactose intolerance can cause heartburn as a side effect.

Intolerance as a trigger of heartburn

Since heartburn is also caused by excessive acid production in the stomach, the symptoms of food and luxury foods can be favored, which additionally stimulate acid production. However, individual intolerances and food allergies can also upset your stomach, especially acid production. The following intolerances can cause heartburn as a side effect:

Lactose intolerance, which is actually a lactose intolerance

If there is an intolerance to milk sugar (lactose), symptoms in the gastrointestinal tract (abdominal pain, diarrhea …) due to the lack of lactase occur. It is responsible for breaking down the lactose. If there is a lactase deficiency, the lactose remains in the intestine and is broken down by the intestinal bacteria. If heartburn occurs especially after consuming dairy products, it may be a side effect of lactose intolerance.

Are you lactose intolerant? Here you can find the best milk alternatives.

Fructose intolerance, which is actually fructose malabsorption

An intolerance to fruit sugar (fructose) can also result in heartburn. In addition to flatulence and abdominal pain, the excessive formation of stomach acid is one of the most common accompanying symptoms of this disease, which results from the fact that the small intestine cannot adequately absorb the fructose. Since the microbiome (“intestinal flora”) can change permanently due to the complaints and thus the absorption capacity of the small intestine is additionally reduced, the risk of irritable bowel and irritable stomach increases.

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Gluten intolerance (“wheat allergy”)

Gluten intolerance is also described by the terms gluten intolerance, celiac or wheat allergy. People with this disease do not tolerate the gluten contained in wheat, among other things . Your immune system turns against the actually harmless protein. This leads to inflammatory reactions in the intestine. The disease is usually hereditary . Diarrhea, gas and cramps are the result. Celiac disease patients depend on a gluten-free diet for the rest of their lives. In addition, other symptoms such as B. Heartburn occur.

Histamine intolerance or intolerance to too much histamine in food

“Histamine intolerance” occurs when the body cannot properly break down histamine from food. As a result, symptoms such as headache, skin discomfort (hives) and digestive problems occur . Since the neurotransmitter histamine not only regulates the sleep rhythm, but also the secretion of gastric acid, heartburn can be a side effect of “histamine intolerance”.

Further intolerance to specific foods

Intolerances can be as individual as every single body. Above we have listed the most common of these, but rarer variants such as intolerance to onions  can be the causes of your heartburn, although the likelihood of this is comparatively low.

The (lengthy) digestion of meat and sausage products increases the risk of heartburn.

You should avoid these foods if you have heartburn

Meat and sausage products with a high fat content

In animal products such as sausages, salami or bacon is often in a high percentage of fat. When consuming meat and sausage products, make sure that you consume low-fat products such as poultry . The reason: particularly fatty foods promote the production of gastric acid. The fat is only sparingly soluble in water. In order for the stomach to utilize it, it has to split it up. The hydrochloric acid contained in the gastric juice is responsible for this. It destroys the structure of the fat, then the digestive enzymes ensure that it is broken down further. This process takes a long time; the components of meat and sausage linger in the stomach during this time and wait to be processed, which is only possible with a sufficient amount of stomach acid. This inevitably increases the risk of heartburn. 


When deep-frying, foods such as French fries or croquettes are cooked in liquid fat. The resulting crust soaks up a lot of fat during the cooking process, which is  then consumed when eating. Here, too, further processing in the stomach takes significantly longer  than with cooked food due to the high fat content . Therefore, avoiding fried foods can help to reduce the risk of heartburn.

Processed baked goods

Ready-made baked goods such as white bread, tarts or cakes can also promote heartburn. On the one hand, this is due to the yeast it contains . This can irritate sensitive stomachs and lead to gas and indigestion. But the starch contained in the baked goods can also be a problem. The starch paste produced during baking is difficult to split up. Favored by (too) much sugar and salt  , a starch paste forms in the stomach, which requires a lot of stomach acid in order to be completely broken down. In addition, the interplay of sugar and heat can lead to fermentation processes, as a result of which carbonic acid is produced. In addition, baked goods are often high in gluten, which can lead to heartburn as a result of “gluten intolerance”.

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Citrus fruits

Citrus fruits such as lemons and oranges naturally contain a lot of fruit acid. This also stimulates the production of stomach acid . For this reason, acidic foods should only be consumed in moderation. This not only applies to fruit, but also to acidic vegetables such as tomatoes, sauerkraut and onions.

Luxury goods such as nicotine or alcohol

The consumption of such stimulants ensures a relaxation of the muscles in the body . Since the sphincter muscle between the stomach and esophagus is one of them, this encourages gastric juice to ascend into the esophagus. In addition, many alcoholic beverages, such as wine, are high in acid, which further stimulates gastric acid production. In addition, nicotine and alcohol can stimulate acid production.

Carbonated drinks

A similar phenomenon can be observed with carbonated beverages such as mineral water or sodas. The sphincter muscle between the stomach and esophagus can be irritated and opened by the rising carbon dioxide bubbles. As a result, stomach acid can go up into the esophagus.

Dairy products

In the past, consuming dairy products was considered the home remedy for heartburn. It is now assumed thatDairy products make the symptoms even worse. The reason: the slightly acidic pH value of milk stimulates the production of stomach acid . The lactose contained in milk can also be responsible for heartburn, especially in the case of lactose intolerance.

The symptoms can be counteracted by changing your diet.

Heartburn diet: what to look out for

Heartburn occurs when excessive stomach acid is produced during digestion and then goes up into the esophagus. It is noticeable through pain and burning in the chest area and “acid regurgitation”. Heartburn can be an accompanying symptom of serious illnesses, but in most cases it occurs as a result of poor diet or food intolerance.

To get to the bottom of the causes of your heartburn, you should contact a family doctor. He can approach the causes with you by asking you questions about the occurrence of the symptoms . It can help to take a close look at your eating habits. When does heartburn occur? Is it related to certain foods? And does it make a difference whether you eat in the morning, at noon or in the evening?

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