Skip to page content

Why do certain foods cause heartburn and indigestion?

Heartburn (also known as reflux) occurs when acid from the stomach escapes back up into the oesophagus (food pipe). Indigestion, or dyspepsia (sometimes called functional dyspepsia) is a pain or uncomfortable feeling in the upper middle part of your abdomen.

Some foods cause the sphincter that keeps the stomach contents from moving back up into the oesophagus to relax or cause a delay in the emptying of the stomach, so food sits in it for longer potentially leading to heartburn and indigestion. Some drinks can also have the same effects, like alcohol or caffeine.

Foods that trigger indigestion and heartburn

Foods that can trigger indigestion, heartburn and acid reflux include:

  • Fatty and salty foods
  • Chocolate and mint (such as spearmint or peppermint)
  • Spicy foods, garlic, onions and tomatoes

Drinks that trigger heartburn and indigestion

Drinks that can trigger heartburn, indigestion and acid reflux include:

  • Caffeinated or carbonated beverages
  • Citrus fruits or juices
  • Alcohol

Negative effects of eating junk food

If you already experience heartburn or indigestion, eating foods that relax the sphincter or delay the digestive process will not be helpful to you. Instead, try to avoid any foods (such as high salt, high fat junk food) that trigger your symptoms.

Know what foods trigger heartburn for you

To try and figure out what foods or drinks might be a trigger for you, try keeping a food diary. Write down everything you eat or drink and note down if you feel the symptoms of heartburn or indigestion. This can help you figure out what to avoid.

Know what foods trigger heartburn for you

To try and figure out what foods or drinks might be a trigger for you, try keeping a food diary. Write down everything you eat or drink and note down if you feel the symptoms of heartburn or indigestion. This can help you figure out what to avoid.

Making lifestyle changes

Some simple things you can do to help manage your symptoms include:

  • Take time to de-stress, as stress can make symptoms feel worse
  • Avoid lying down after eating and avoid eating or drinking for 2–3 hours before bedtime
  • Weight loss can help improve symptoms if you are overweight
  • Try to stop smoking, as smoking is an identified risk factor for heartburn

Managing symptoms

Use Gaviscon to soothe the symptoms of heartburn and indigestion.

This medicine may not be right for you. Read the label before purchase. Follow the directions for use. If symptoms persist, talk to your health professional.

RB-M-22480

NA 12960 

Further Information

Spot the Difference: Heartburn and Indigestion

Article published January 1, 2021