You may know it all too well: the fiery, burning sensation that grips your chest once you have eaten something you realise you shouldn’t have. Heartburn occurs when stomach acid seeps out of your stomach and moves up into the oesophagus. Any food that increases acid can lead to heartburn; as can foods that relax the lower oesophageal sphincter- the muscle which controls the flow between the stomach and oesophagus. The stomach acid eats away at the lining of the oesophagus and can cause lasting damage. Hence, this is not a condition to be taken lightly even if it appears to be only a mild irritant. Although heartburn is triggered by different types of food in different people the most common offenders are identified in this article. Avoiding these can help prevent the discomfort of heartburn and other associated symptoms that haunt the consumers of these food types. Both whole citrus fruits and their juices can cause heartburn because they increase acid production in your stomach. Tangy citrus fruits including lemons, oranges, grapefruits and orange juice are considered classic heartburn foods. Lemons and limes, in particular, have the most citric acid of any fruit whereas grapefruit has a much higher amount than orange juice. It’s also important to remember that many soft drinks contain citric acid to give the drinks their tart taste and should also be avoided in case of heartburn. High-fat and greasy foods are also on the list of common heartburn offenders. They can be brutal for a person suffering from acid reflux. While fried foods may look crispy, they retain a lot of the oil in the coating. Foods high in fat take longer to digest, putting pressure on your stomach and oesophagus. This increases the risk of acid reflux due to the amount of time your stomach stays full. Instead of fried foods, try grilling or poaching your meals. This not only saves calories but can protect you from heartburn. If you get heartburn from drinking coffee, it’s probably from the caffeine. Caffeine relaxes the LES. One cup of coffee or espresso a day is fine, but people who drink coffee all day long are courting reflux-if they don’t already have it. Additionally coffee, which is highly acidic, stimulates your stomach to produce digestive acids and can exacerbate acid reflux. Other drinks high in caffeine can also cause heartburn. Spicy foods are pretty high on the list of frequent heartburn culprits. Common examples are foods made with red chilli, paprika, vinegar, jalapenos and pepper. However, many foods are spicy and not all have the same effect on everyone – a dish that gives some people heartburn may not affect you at all. Keep a log of how you feel after eating different spicy foods to find what causes problems for you. Also, remember that eating smaller meals and staying upright for three hours after eating can take the edge off many heartburn-causing foods. While they might be chockfull of healthy nutrients like lycopene, tomatoes are also highly acidic and likely to cause heartburn in those who are prone to it. The high acid content can upset your stomach, causing acid reflux as you digest your meal. Be wary of tomatoes used in cooking. A delicious tomato based dish could come back to haunt you later that night. Also consider cutting down on condiments high in tomatoes and acid, such as ketchup and salsa. This is definitely bad news if you’re a chocolate lover but chocolate is, in fact, a triple threat. It is high in fat, which means it takes longer to digest. It is high in caffeine, which relaxes the oesophageal sphincter and can let stomach acid creep up. It is also a natural relaxant, releasing pleasure hormones in your body. This action can also relax the sphincter. Chocolate is a particularly bad food to eat if you suffer from heartburn. Theoretically, dark chocolate isn’t as bad as high-fat milk chocolate but it is not recommended if you are a chronic heartburn sufferer. Though these foods are some of the major causes of heartburn, it’s not just what you eat but how much you eat and when you eat that are important contributors to reflux. Too much of any food or consuming a large meal right before you lie down are likely to trigger heartburn even if you don’t eat any of the heartburn-causing foods mentioned here. When you find yourself completely unable to resist the charms of reflux-inducing food and are suffering from a case of heartburn, there are some quick relief OTC medicines available in the market.