Heartburn, Acid Reflux, and Indigestion: Unusual, Surprising Causes

It's Not Just Unhealthy Foods That Can Cause Indigestion

We've all been there before. Lots of folks experience some type of indigestion, heartburn, or acid reflux after eating obviously dangerous, cheesy, greasy foods like nachos, chile, or anything deep fried. For some of us, however, indigestion is a daily grind, no matter how healthily we eat.

Anyone who has experienced these symptoms (pretty much everybody) knows that it's not only painful and annoying, but can cause potential health risks down the road. Medication for acid reflux and heartburn is being prescribed at an all-time high, with the number of prescriptions rising every day.

I'm not an expert, and there may be no concrete answer, but I'm going share with you some of the things that cause me the symptoms I'm talking about. Below, you'll find a list of healthy foods that can be hard to digest. Some of the foods on this list are very unlikely suspects because they are healthy and natural, but I know for a fact due to my own experiences that they are to blame for one or all of these conditions.

Why Do I Get Heartburn and Indigestion?

Heartburn/Acid Reflux

When you swallow, the food is supposed to follow a certain path down your esophagus and into your stomach. A valve opens to allow the food to pass into your stomach. This valve should close once the food has passed. If this valve does not work properly, it may allow some stomach acid to enter your esophagus. This is called acid reflux, which can be painful. Acid reflux is synonymous with heartburn.


Indigestion is often a sign of an underlying problem, such as gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD), ulcers, or gallbladder disease, rather than a condition of its own.

Also called dyspepsia, indigestion is a term used to describe a feeling of fullness or discomfort during or after a meal. It can be accompanied by burning or pain in the upper stomach and any or all of these sensations:

  • Bloating (full feeling)
  • Belching and gas
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Acidic taste in mouth
  • Growling stomach
  • Burning in the stomach or upper abdomen
  • Abdominal pain

These symptoms may increase in times of stress.

People often have heartburn along with indigestion, but heartburn is caused by stomach acids rising into the esophagus while indigestion may be caused by one or many things.

You'll talk with your doctor about how to solve these issues. In the meantime, here's a list of some common and unexpected foods that may be triggering the symptoms.

Oatmeal or Porridge

It has been said that you should eat oatmeal to avoid heartburn, but for some people, oatmeal has the opposite effect.

Oatmeal gives me crazy heartburn! You wouldn't think of rolled oats as being something that can do this, but it can. Every time I eat oatmeal, it leaves me in writhing pain looking for an antacid immediately.


Raw onions can wreak havoc in the stomachs of certain people, when eaten both raw or cooked. I also noticed that onions, like oatmeal, also lower cholesterol. How ironic! Foods that are good for your body's health in one aspect, can be possibly damaging in another way!


Carrots are delicious and nutritious. They also give me indigestion. As I said, indigestion is not like heartburn because there is no burning sensation. It's more of a pain in the thorax (in between the middle of the collar bone and the top of the abs, right in the middle of the chest), whereas heartburn for me is usually in the bottom of my throat.

I only get indigestion form raw carrots. If they are steamed or stewed, I generally have no problems at all. It is still more than beneficial to eat cooked carrots as they hold most of their nutritional content even after being cooked through.


Yoga "downward dog" pose is an example of an exercise that could induce heartburn.
Yoga "downward dog" pose is an example of an exercise that could induce heartburn.

Yep. That's right. Your exercise routine can cause bad heartburn because some exercises reverse the flow of digestion, forcing stomach acid back into the esophagus. Examples are gymnastics moves (such as somersaults and forward rolls) and certain yoga moves (such as a downward dog) which may reverse the natural flow of your digestion, as do stomach exercises such as crunches.

In my opinion, it's best to work out not hungry nor full. A nice in-between is perfect to avoid gastrointestinal repercussions. This will help minimize the reflux issue should you be a yoga enthusiasts or an avid worker of your abs.

Make that bath with extra cocoa, please!
Make that bath with extra cocoa, please!

How to Prevent Heartburn and Acid Reflux

Here are some ways to prevent heartburn and acid reflux:

I apologize in advance for this. What's the #1 food to avoid when you're suffering from heartburn? Chocolate. (Again, my apologies.) The sweet, decadent treat deals heartburn sufferers a double doozy. It is nearly all fat, and it contains caffeine. But don't despair! May I make a suggestion? The "new age" chocolate bars still taste delicious, but are made with a significant boost of pure cocoa powder and less sugar. The bars are usually labeled with what percentage of the bar is pure cocoa. I wouldn't go any higher than 60%, or else it tastes like tree bark. Naturally, there is a benefit to a higher cocoa concentrate. Cocoa has tons of antioxidants, and helps lower blood pressure! It might take some getting used to, but you will probably end up enjoying these "uber cocoa" bars very much. Especially when you'll have a lot less heartburn!

Lighten up on the caffeine. Even though most people rely on a little bump for their daily grind, caffeinated drinks such as coffee, tea, and cola may irritate an already inflamed esophagus. Caffeine also relaxes the sphincter muscle. (Not good, by the way.)

Check your waistline. Compare your tummy to a tube of toothpaste. If you take the cap off and you squeeze the tube in the middle, something's going to come out of the top, right? A roll of fat around the belly squeezes the stomach the same way a hand would, but what comes up is nasty stomach acid. Maybe it's time to give your stomach a break?

Loosen your belt, buddy. Think again of the toothpaste analogy. If losing weight is not realistic for you at this time, you can get relief from heartburn simply by wearing suspenders instead of a belt.

Sugar and spice is not always nice. Chili peppers and their spicy cousins may seem like the most likely heartburn culprits, but they're not. Many heartburn sufferers can eat spicy foods without added pain. Then again, some can't. I won't be the one to tell you to stay away from spicy foods because they have a different impact on everyone, but I will remind you to pay attention to which ingredients cause your symptoms.

Be cautious about, but not afraid of, the citrus family. Acidic foods like oranges and lemons may seem like bad news, but the acid they contain is tiddly-winks compared to what your stomach produces. I suggest you go with your gut when you choose to eat these foods. (Get it? I'm hilarious!)

Heartburn Fighting Myths

Have you heard you should drink milk when you have heartburn?

Well, it goes down smooth and cold, but the proteins and fats in milk actually stimulate stomach acids. Milk will help you for a short period of time, but the heartburn will be back to bite ya soon enough, possibly even worse than it was half an hour before! You've been warned :)

What About You?

Which foods give you heartburn or indigestion?

  • Spicy foods torture me.
  • Fatty, greasy foods go down but don't stay down.
  • Meat never sits well.
  • Dairy makes me wish I didn't.
  • Chocolate or other sweets don't agree with me.
  • Exercise or motion is what triggers my symptoms.
  • Gluten-heavy meals are painful.
  • Oatmeal=ouch!
  • Carrots, onions, or certain other healthy vegetables make me feel unhealthy.
  • Other. (Please explain in the comments section!)
See results without voting

I want to thank you for reading, and I hope this has helped. Feel free to leave a comment below or make a suggestion!

Comments 10 comments

ausis profile image

ausis 4 years ago from Australia

I have the very same thing with rolled oats I also have the problem sometimes with pizza I believe it's due to the dough not being cooked properly I get the problem with baked potatoes but not boiled or fried, yet I have a tablespoon of vinegar no problems. I do find the milk does help but as a one to one skim and full cream blend otherwise the fat causes the burn to flare again. Thanks for sharing this useful info

Khansa 3 years ago

Thankyou so much, I can't eat carrots, bell peppers and onions at all - no matter how thoroughly I cook them. Would like your confirmation if feelings of vertigo and dizziness are normal, a well writing abdominal pain

Courtney 2 years ago

Oatmeal is a problem for me too! It's too bad also because it was part of my new weight control regiment. But this acid reflux ain't worth it!

Laura 2 years ago

I found this article by googling "why does oatmeal give me indigestion". Ugh.

Jess 2 years ago

I have sever heartburn. Waking up in the middle of the night ready to vomit and chocking on the acid but never do. It just stays in the top of my esophagus burning ready to come up, but never does!! I HATE IT. And by the way when I don't have over the counter medications such at the tablets I drink half a glass of milk and it works instantly. And I sleep good all night. I guess everyone is different :) :( I need more answers.

Lianne 2 years ago

Me and my husband both have the problem with oats. It's the only thing that gives me heartburn. He has a chronic problem with heartburn and had to take PPI every day and even with that he will still get heartburn after he eats oats. Probiotic drinks also give me horrendous gut ache too. Would be fascinated to know why since they're meant to make things better....

Shelley, TX 2 years ago

I get heartburn with anything that has oats in it and with cucumbers! But, a sure fire, QUICK way to get rid of an apple!!! It soaks up the acid quickly! My uncle taught me this, he eats one every night before bed!

Raederle Phoenix profile image

Raederle Phoenix 18 months ago from Buffalo, New York

Oatmeal gives me heartburn too. And meat. And pasteurized dairy (but not raw milk). And garlic and onions and hot peppers. And anything with gluten. And quinoa. And amaranth and t'eff. And sweet potatoes and potatoes. And rice.

I finally just figured out I needed to eat all raw foods to stop getting heart burn.

Barry 15 months ago

I found this whole article excellent and it comfirm every thing I already knew and and forgot

judith 7 months ago

I cannot eat oatmeal without paying the price! I have to eat a Tums to stop the burping and burning. Is there maybe something I can add to it like a spice that can stop this.

Trying to lose about 15 pounds and it helps me in that way, but ohhhhhhhhh!

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