10 Foods That Trigger GERD/Heartburn

Written by Pliro
Nov 22, 2018 Last updated: Dec 6, 2018

What is GERD?

Gastroesophageal reflux (GERD) is a very common stomach problem found around the world. Basically, it is a disease in which the sphincter between the stomach and the esophagus becomes weaker or start to act incorrectly, allowing for the stomach’s content to return up the esophagus.

GERD comes in various different levels of intensity and has numerous causes. All countries and races have some percentage of incidences. East Asia seems to be the only part of the world with ≤10% of its population being affected.

This is not commonly a life threatening disease. It usually is known for causing mild to moderate discomfort once or twice a week. Still, the sensation can affect some people’s quality of life so it is only normal for them to look for treatment. Medication is an option, but it usually comes with side effects and is not the most effective alternative. Dieting and simply knowing and avoiding problematic foods are a much better strategy to reduce the frequency and intensity of reflux.


Some of the normal symptoms are: Chest pain, vomiting, difficulty swallowing and acid indigestion. Citrus, alcohol and carbonated drinks can trigger and worsen the symptoms. Obesity, late night sacking and posture while sleeping are also related to this condition.

Let’s take a look at some common trigger foods to avoid GERD:


Citrus like Lemon are highly acidic foods, which is bad for reflux. 60% to 70% of people with GERD will experience heartburn after eating tomatoes or citrus.


Garlics and onions contain fermentable fiber, which causes the process of digestion to go slower. This increases the chances of acid reflux.


This is frequently found in GERD trigger lists but in reality is not always problematic. Some people are more sensitive than others. In truth, is not quite clear if caffeine is actually the culprit in those cases.

If your routine includes coffee and you don’t notice any problems, you may not need to change your habits.

High fat foods

Fatty food can relax the sphincter and slow down digestion. Both effects can increase the probability of acid reflux. Avoiding fried food would be advisable.


Methylxanthines (MX) are a group of molecules present on chocolate that are considered as responsible for its aggravating effects in GERD.

The truth is that this is controversial, the mechanism behind this phenomenon are not clear but it is a fact that MX has an effect over the gastrointestinal system.

Carbonated drinks

These drinks cause gastric distention and increase the pressure on the sphincter, which makes much more likely for it to open at an inappropriate time and allow acid to pass through.


Mint is actually bad for digestion and it can irritate the internal lining of the stomach, causing heartburn.

This is other popular entry that may be overestimated. Not all people with GERD need to avoid mint. Again, if you regularly eat mint and you experience no problems, then there’s no reason to stop.

Spicy food

Capsaicin is a common compound found in spicy food and (among other things) it can slow down digestion, which as we discussed already, can increase the chances of heartburn.



The research on how milk affects people with GERD focuses mostly on small children. They frequently experience heartburn when they start drinking cow’s milk. This also happens with adults but has received less attention.


While Tomatoes are very healthy, they are also highly acidic and likely to cause heartburn in those who are prone to it.

To avoid the problem to get severe it is always better to consult a gastroenterologist.