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- Heartburn, a painful burning feeling in your throat or chest, can be standalone or a symptom of both acid reflux and GERD.
- Some foods can help ease the symptoms of or reduce the frequency of heartburn.
- Bananas and fennel can sometimes help one manage their symptoms of acid reflux.
Whether you feel it often or once in a while, heartburn can be uncomfortable and difficult to deal with. The painful, burning feeling in your throat or chest occurs when stomach acid travels into your esophagus, the part of your body that carries food from your mouth to your stomach.
Heartburn can be standalone and it can also be a symptom of acid reflux, when stomach contents travel back into your esophagus, or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), a chronic, severe form of acid reflux.
Fortunately, what you eat can sometimes help you to manage the painful side effects of heartburn or potentially reduce the frequency of it.
INSIDER consulted with doctors and dietitians to identify foods that can potentially help reduce the pain and frequency of heartburn.
Ginger may help to soothe inflammation in the esophagus
Ginger is a fragrant root that is commonly viewed as a stomach-soothing ingredient but this spicy food can actually help with heartburn as well.
“Ginger is a natural anti-inflammatory and [it] can help to reduce the inflammation of the esophagus that is associated with GERD,” registered dietitian Kelly Kennedy told INSIDER.
If you find that raw ginger has too much kick to eat by itself, try tossing a tablespoon of freshly grated ginger into a smoothie or adding a few slices of the root to your tea.
Eating oatmeal and whole grains can help reduce the acid that builds up and causes heartburn
“Acid is the irritating factor in heartburn and the fiber in oatmeal and whole-grain products like whole-grain bread and pasta can help reduce it. The high fiber content of these foods helps to absorb and reduce the acid that builds up and causes heartburn,” registered dietitian Emily Wunder told INSIDER.
When cooking these whole grains, you may want to avoid pairing them with ingredients that are known to trigger heartburn, like tomato or garlic.
Switching to low-fat dairy may help to reduce heartburn symptoms
The high amount of fat in some dairy products can sometimes worsen heartburn symptoms, said Wunder. She said that switching to a low-fat or non-dairy version of your favorite cheeses, dairy-based desserts, and yogurts could potentially help to reduce these symptoms.
Eating apples may help to decrease the frequency of heartburn
Apples are a convenient and healthy snack that can also potentially help to reduce acid reflux symptoms. These fruits are actually packed with pectin, a soluble dietary fiber that’s been found to sometimes decrease the frequency of heartburn.
“Soluble fiber is needed to help regulate digestion and has been shown to decrease heartburn in some studies,” registered dietitian Jeanette Kimszal told INSIDER. “Apples are also a rich source of minerals [like] calcium, magnesium, and potassium. These nutrients are helpful for lowering stomach acid.”
Consuming aloe vera can sometimes help reduce symptoms of acid reflux
Aloe vera might be known for being a key ingredient in creams meant to soothe sunburns, but it can also be useful for reducing the symptoms of acid reflux, including heartburn.
“Aloe vera is famous as a natural healing agent and also appears to reduce gastric acid levels naturally. It is available as a living plant but the leaves or liquid form are sometimes sold separately in grocery and health food stores,” bariatric surgeon Dr. Michael Jay Nusbaum told INSIDER. He also said the liquid form of aloe can be used as a thickening agent when preparing certain dishes.
Liquid aloe vera can have a slightly sour taste, so you may want to add a drizzle of honey if you plan to consume it undiluted. And if you want your aloe vera to be as fresh as possible, you can keep a live plant in your home and remove its leaves as needed.
Eating bananas may help to settle your stomach
A portable healthy snack, bananas can sometimes aid in reducing the frequency of heartburn. Dr. Nusbaum told INSIDER that a banana’s natural pH can help settle the stomach and he said he recommends them to those who suffer from acid reflux.
However, Dr. Nusbaum said about 1% of patients with acid reflux find that their condition is actually worsened by bananas. So before using bananas as your go-to solution to acid reflux symptoms, you may want to test how your body reacts to them first.
Fennel is a flavorful herb that may help settle the stomach
Fennel is a crunchy herb that looks like a cross between onion and celery even though it’s actually a member of the carrot family.
“[Fennel’s] neutral pH helps settle the stomach. It is a great food for acid reflux and actually seems to improve stomach function through improving gastric motility,” said Dr. Nusbaum.
Fennel can be consumed raw or cooked and its seeds can be used to add flavor to dishes like chicken and fish.
Chewing sugar-free gum might help with reducing heartburn
When heartburn strikes, you may want to try chewing on a stick of sugar-free gum. A 2005 study published in the US National Library of Medicine found that chewing gum could cause you to swallow more frequently which can help improve how quickly acid reflux is cleared from your esophagus.
“Chewing sugar-free gum for half an hour after a meal can reduce heartburn as it raises pH levels in the throat,” internal medicine specialist Dr. John La Puma told INSIDER. Since a pH below seven is considered to be acidic, the higher your pH level is, the less acidic it is.
Though chewing gum is no substitute for eating well and seeking medical care, doing so might help you to cope with heartburn in a pinch.
Miso soup can help reduce symptoms of GERD
Miso soup is a traditional Japanese dish made with miso paste (a fermented soybean seasoning).
“Daily intake of miso soup lowers GERD symptoms, including dyspepsia (indigestion) and [acid] reflux,” said Dr. La Puma.
Eating spinach can potentially help reduce stomach acidity
“Spinach is rich in calcium, which increases bone health, and it’s highly alkaline, which helps the stomach to reduce acidity levels,” Scabardi said. Spinach is a versatile ingredient that can be added to recipes or smoothies in order to get the most out of its potentially soothing impact on heartburn.
Consuming lean proteins instead of fatty ones might help you to avoid triggering heartburn
A common dietary trigger of heartburn is consuming excess fat, which can be found in fried foods or certain meats like beef or lamb. Opting for leaner protein sources can potentially help to prevent acid reflux.
“Choose lean sources of protein like grilled chicken or turkey, egg whites, and even beans or legumes. These protein sources are lower in acid than red meat with very little fat,” registered dietitian Katie Hughes told INSIDER.
You may also want to bake or broil proteins instead of frying them if you’re trying to avoid triggering acid reflux, as frying foods can increase the fat content of a dish.