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Help for heartburn

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Kerry Torrens explains how to beat uncomfortable heartburn and acid reflux, which in many cases can be eased by avoiding certain foods.

What is heartburn?

As its name suggests, heartburn is a burning sensation in the chest, caused by acid from your stomach travelling back into your gullet and towards your throat (acid reflux).


Read more about heartburn from the NHS, including when you should speak to your GP.

Case study

My client, in his late 40s, found that eating out often left him feeling uncomfortable, with a burning sensation in his chest and throat. He also, on occasions, experienced bad breath, bloating and some nausea. He told me that he tended to grab toast for breakfast, ate lunch on the hoof and finished the day with a late-evening meal. He had recently put on a few kilos and was trying to reduce the fattier foods that he suspected were the cause of his problem.

My advice to this client was...

Tomatoes in colander

I explained that he needed to determine which foods brought on his heartburn. Common triggers include spicy foods, coffee, alcohol, chocolate, peppermint, fizzy soft drinks and acidic foods like tomatoes. Red meat, full-fat dairy and fried foods can also be culprits, as they slow down the digestive process.As well as cutting back on problem foods, I advised him to:

  • Take time to enjoy food, and eat in a relaxed manner.
  • Have smaller, more frequent meals and snacks.
  • Avoid bending or lying down after eating, and time the evening meal at least 2-3 hours before going to bed.
  • Stay away from red and processed meats, keep alcohol and caffeine to a minimum, opt for lean poultry and fish and choose dishes that are steamed, grilled or poached.

The result?

Chicken and rice with broccoli on plate

By concentrating on how, as well as what, he ate, my client was able to manage his symptoms within weeks. However, any slip in his focus did mean a return of the problem, so it was important to stay on track.

If you are suffering with heartburn or acid reflux and symptoms are persistent, make sure you visit your GP to ensure it isn't a sign of other health issues.

A few recipe suggestions...

Steamed fish with ginger & spring onion
Easy poached salmon with salsa verde
Steamed mussels with cider, spring onions & cream
Smoky chicken with warm corn & potato salad
Chargrilled turkey with quinoa tabbouleh & tahini dressing
Miso brown rice & chicken salad
Grilled fish with new potato, red pepper & olive salad

Do you suffer with heartburn or have you recently made dietary changes that have eased your symptoms? Let us know below.

This page was last updated on 24 January 2019.

Kerry Torrens is a qualified Nutritionist (MBANT) with a post graduate diploma in Personalised Nutrition & Nutritional Therapy. She is a member of the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT) and a member of the Guild of Food Writers. Over the last 15 years she has been a contributing author to a number of nutritional and cookery publications including BBC Good Food.


All health content on is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional. If you have any concerns about your general health, you should contact your local health care provider. See our website terms and conditions for more information.

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