Digestive Health

Finding fall fare, the top 6 best and worst fall foods for heartburn

Young dad and son cooking over a stove. Some fall foods can help or trigger heartburn.


Find out what fall foods and drinks cause scary acid reflux symptoms and which ones keep the fiery burn away


By Suma Magge, MD, Gastroenterology, Nuvance Health  


Nothing says fall fun quite like enjoying a freshly baked apple cider donut and sipping a pumpkin spice latte while you’re out enjoying a weekend of pumpkin picking. But when heartburn strikes, it could turn your spooky season trip to the farm into an extra-frightful one. Here are some popular fall foods that can trigger your heartburn symptoms and the ones that are heartburn friendly. 



What fall foods and drinks trigger acid reflux?

Apple cider donuts
. Although hard to resist, these deep-fried circles of sweet dough, rolled in sugar and spice, are anything but nice when it comes to triggering your heartburn. Fatty and fried foods contain all the hallmarks for causing heartburn.

Consuming too many fat-rich foods that are fried in oil could lead to an unpleasant case of heartburn and indigestion. These seasonally baked goods are often heavily processed and contain lots of refined sugar that can lead to acid reflux.


Pumpkin spice lattes. There is nothing basic about this popular fall favorite which could be more of a trick than a treat if you suffer from heartburn. Not only does caffeine cause heartburn, but the added spices such as cinnamon and clove are notorious culprits for triggering reflux symptoms. Artificially colored and flavored drinks and foods that are processed can lead to an upset stomach and stimulate stomach acid production.

Chocolate lovers beware! This indulgent and popular autumn-time sweet is a heartburn-causing culprit. Cocoa powder found inside of chocolate is acidic and high in fat, so it can cause heartburn and acid reflux. Chocolate also contains caffeine, which triggers heartburn.

Spicy beef chili. There is nothing quite as soothing on a cool autumn day like enjoying a nice warm bowl of chili. But think twice before indulging in this popular fall-time dish because it packs a spicy punch that might get your heartburn in a twist. Spicy foods are common triggers for heartburn and acid reflux symptoms because they often contain ingredients like hot peppers. Peppers contain a neurotoxin called capsaicin that has been shown to slow or delay the digestive process and to induce acid reflux.

Citrus sangria. Holidays are about spending time with the ones you love, but don’t cozy up too close to this popular cocktail or you might get burned. Wine is highly acidic and contains alcohol that can trigger acid reflux. Acidic foods such as citrus fruit are common triggers for acid reflux because they stimulate stomach acids. 

Both alcohol from the wine and the citrus from the orange can cause a double whammy of heartburn symptoms. Drinks containing alcohol such as wine weaken the seal between the stomach and the throat, causing acid and stomach contents to more easily travel up into your esophagus.

Buttery garlic and onion mashed potatoes. This warm and homey side dish is a hit on a crisp fall day, but it can also lead to an extra helping of heartburn. Overdoing it on garlic alone can cause acid reflux because of an active ingredient called allicin, a compound that increases acid in the stomach. Onions also stimulate acid production in the stomach, which is likely to cause heartburn and reflux.

Pass the butter, please! Nothing makes mashed potatoes even more creamy and delicious than a generous addition of butter. Unfortunately, this tasty high-fat additive comes at a high cost. Heartburn. Fatty foods such as butter and certain vegetable oils increase the risk of heartburn.  


Speak with your primary care doctor about occasional heartburn prevention so you can enjoy the foods you like in moderation. See a gastroenterologist if you experience heartburn regularly and:

  • Have a family history of gastrointestinal conditions
  • Have swallowing issues or weight loss
  • Acid reflux does not go away from diet changes



What fall foods can I eat or drink if I have heartburn?

Apple cider
is a refreshing and popular fall drink. Apple cider is low in acidity, so it may not cause a bad case of heartburn. Apple cider is also rich in polyphenols, a natural antioxidant that eases inflammation in your body and has a variety of other digestive health benefits, including relief from constipation or irritable bowel syndrome. Apple cider can also help relax your gut, which can help promote healthier digestion. 


Related content: Understand ulcerative colitis and gain control of your gut.

Pumpkin oatmeal cookies. Your guests can leave their heartburn worries at the door when they enter your home for a fall gathering! Because oatmeal is dense in fiber, it helps to maintain healthy levels of stomach acid, which makes it a great and safe choice for heartburn sufferers. The fiber in oatmeal also works to keep your stomach feeling full, allowing you to indulge, but not too much, while still feeling satisfied from a delicious-tasting cookie.

Decaffeinated ginger tea can offer you a warm and comforting feeling during the chilly fall season while allowing you to avoid heartburn symptoms. Ginger root is one of the most commonly eaten dietary condiments in the world, according to the National Library of Medicine. Ginger has been used as a therapeutic and medicinal plant for thousands of years and can be eaten in a variety of ways. Ginger has been used to relieve indigestion and nausea and has anti-inflammatory properties. It is a member of the plant family that includes cardamom and turmeric.

Fall harvest salad with butternut squash. Leafy greens like spinach and lettuce are packed with fiber, which is great for keeping stomach acid levels low. These mild greens are also alkaline, so they won’t cause gas. Butternut squash is rich in vitamin C and high in fiber, so it will keep you feeling full. Just avoid adding citrus, onions or high-fat oils to this light fall fare so as not to trigger heartburn or acid reflux symptoms.

Roasted pumpkin puree. Keep the heartburn at bay and opt to have some delicious pumpkin. Commonly mistaken as a vegetable, this beta carotene-rich fruit has a wide variety of health benefits. Beta carotene is an antioxidant that the body turns into vitamin A to help keep our organs strong.

Pumpkins also provide great digestive health benefits because they are naturally dense in fiber–a necessary digestive component that reduces or relieves constipation and helps keep our stomach feeling full. Pumpkin can be enjoyed in many ways, but roasted pumpkin, pumpkin puree, pumpkin hummus and even roasted pumpkin seeds are the most popular. Use organic pumpkin if possible.

Baked salmon with roasted fall vegetables is a wonderful fall dish and perfect for those who suffer from heartburn. Because salmon is a lean protein it has less fat than other meats, so eating it reduces the chances you will have heartburn symptoms or acid reflux. Salmon is also packed with healthy fat. Omega-3 fatty acids help keep your body healthy by making your cells stronger.

Root vegetables like carrots, potatoes and parsnips pair well with salmon. Asparagus works nicely too! If possible, go for wild-caught salmon rather than farm-raised and use organic vegetables.  



The bottom line: Heartburn is an uncomfortable, burning feeling in your chest caused by acid reflux no matter what time of year it is. Spicy foods high in fat are common heartburn triggers, as well as garlic, onions and citrus fruits. Caffeine and alcohol also trigger heartburn symptoms.

Opt to eat foods high in fiber, whole-grain foods that absorb stomach acid or leafy greens and root vegetables that are alkaline. If your favorite foods are causing you heartburn, speak with your doctor about ways you can still enjoy those foods.