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reviewed 10/24/2019

Heartburn triggers

Can you avoid the burn?

Find out what can trigger it.

Heartburn occurs when stomach acid bubbles back up the esophagus. But avoiding common triggers can help prevent the fiery sensation.

Foods: Chocolate, citrus fruits, fatty or spicy foods, onions, peppermint or spearmint, tomatoes and tomato sauces.

Fast fact: Heartburn often occurs after overeating.

Drinks: Alcohol, carbonated drinks, citrus juices, full-fat dairy products, coffee and other caffeinated drinks.

Fast fact: More than 60 million Americans experience heartburn at least once a month.

Lifestyle factors: Being overweight, being under stress, smoking, taking certain medications, lying down too soon after eating.

Fast 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 frequent or persistent heartburn.
  • You have trouble swallowing.
  • You are short of breath or have a cough or wheezing that won't go away.
  • You lose weight you weren't trying to lose.

Seek immediate medical care if:

  • You vomit blood.
  • You have tarry, black stools.
  • You feel pressure or pain in your chest, neck or shoulder. This could be a sign of a heart attack.

Sources: American Academy of Family Physicians; American College of Gastroenterology; National Institutes of Health.

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