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Nutrition Articles  ›  Special Concerns

Keeping a Heartburn Journal

A Simple Way to Find & Avoid Your Triggers

-- By Liza Barnes, Health Educator
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Gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, causes painful symptoms (like heartburn and acid regurgitation) that usually occur after meals. An exact cause of GERD hasn’t been pinpointed, but certain foods and lifestyle habits seem to trigger GERD symptoms in many people suffering from this condition.

To complicate matters even more, every person suffering from GERD has a different list of foods and habits that trigger their symptoms.

That’s why it's wise to keep a heartburn journal to find your own specific triggers. Here’s how to get started.

Set a timeline. Decide how long you plan to record your observations in your journal. Two to four weeks should be ample time for you to notice patterns. 

Take notes. Each time you experience a bout of heartburn, note symptoms, timing, foods you ate and other activities:
  • Recognize your symptoms. Record and describe the symptoms you experience, such as: heartburn, regurgitation, nausea, coughing, sore throat, or particles of food coming back up. Also try to rate the intensity of these symptoms, such as mild, moderate or severe.
     
  • Watch the clock. Note the time that your symptoms occurred—when they started and how long they lasted. Look for patterns, like whether or not you are more prone to heartburn in the morning or in the evening. If this is the case, you might try to avoid trigger foods at this specific time. Continued ›
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About The Author

Liza Barnes Liza Barnes
Liza has two bachelor's degrees: one in health promotion and education and a second in nursing. A registered nurse and mother, regular exercise and cooking are top priorities for her. See all of Liza's articles.

Member Comments

  • My GERD turned out to be caused by a hiatal hernia. My primary doctor knew I had a hiatal hernia but never checked to see how bad it was. He told me I just needed to lose a little weight to take care of the GERD. A surgeon I was seeing for a different matter checked and told me the hernia was one of the largest he'd ever seen. While doing the surgery for the other matter he repaired the hernia and I haven't had a single GERD episode since. It's wonderful to be able to sleep on my back now instead of propped up.

    Unfortunately, the years of GERD gave me Barrett's esophagus a condition which makes it more likely I could develop esophageal cancer. I have to have an endoscopy every year to make sure that doesn't happen.

    BTW, I have a new primary doctor now. :-) - 4/1/2014 11:12:29 PM
  • SUGARFLY69
    Anything deep fried really seems to trigger my symptoms. Just another reason to avoid this unhealthy type of food. - 2/18/2014 7:05:09 PM
  • SAERJOMO2006
    I get heartburn late in the evening if I drink coffee, eat bread, drink water or juices. Also, if I eat anything that contains tomato sauce or any acid foods or anything with mint. - 1/9/2014 3:02:17 PM
  • MPINEDA87
    For my severe GERD I started on organic apple cider vinager, one teaspoon in the morning before breakfast and during the day as needed when heartburn starts. Also Pure Aloe Vera 4oz after taking the apple cider vinager. I have not taking omeprazole in few weeks. - 1/5/2014 1:00:44 PM
  • 4MOMWOW
    A food journal is a great idea. Thanks.
    Tomato based foods--chili, sauces/pasta-- are high acid which can trigger an episode with me. At home when i cook with canned tomatoes I add 1-2 Tbls of sugar . Seems to help but I try not to eat too much at one time.
    - 9/29/2013 5:44:16 PM
  • There are two foods that trigger it for me, bananas and almonds, I also get it when I'm hungry too. - 5/9/2013 11:35:59 PM
  • I'm avoiding fruits/veggies from the Birch and Alder family. For other veggies/fruit I cook, steam, place in microwave for 3 minutes before eating. - 4/20/2013 8:28:48 AM
  • Gosh, this "random" article is perfect timing. I've been experiencing a lot of heartburn lately. I upped my calories at doctor's request, but my body doesn't seem to be adjusting well. I'm going to start paying more attention to this, and try to avoid the patterns and/or foods causing it. Thanks for the info. I'm already participating in several challenges, incl. sleep and diabetes, so I'm doing a fair amt. of health journaling already. But maybe I can make quick observations on my nutrition notes on the tracker. - 12/18/2012 3:20:42 AM
  • Gosh, this "random" article is perfect timing. I've been experiencing a lot of heartburn lately. I upped my calories at doctor's request, but my body doesn't seem to be adjusting well. I'm going to start paying more attention to this, and try to avoid the patterns and/or foods causing it. Thanks for the info. I'm already participating in several challenges, incl. sleep and diabetes, so I'm doing a fair amt. of health journaling already. But maybe I can make quick observations on my nutrition notes on the tracker. - 12/18/2012 3:20:18 AM
  • LAURIEDIARY
    Nothing triggers my GERD like stress! Seems like one day I can eat the food that bothered me the week before. I take a omeprozole (20mg) everyday to keep it in check. Seems to be working. Now that the holidays are upon us, I will have to watch the party food & question what ingredients are in some foods...or not eat them at all. - 12/2/2012 10:45:29 AM
  • ELONBRO
    Omeprazole is supposed to help but I still get it from stress. Stupid people and computers that don't work properly give me heartburn. :-)
    - 11/16/2012 8:54:38 AM
  • I have terrible acid reflex but Ragu tomatoe sauce does not bother me. So weird - 10/9/2012 2:37:09 PM
  • It's funny but when I eat a fresh tomato it doesn't bother me but let me eat tomato based sauce and it often causes my acid reflux to act up. - 10/7/2012 7:46:09 PM
  • I noticed that tomato based foods make it worse however when i take my
    Omeprazole i dont usually have any symptoms.. not that i have noticed - 9/17/2012 4:11:41 PM
  • Definitely going to put this into practice, wish me luck! - 6/29/2012 11:33:09 AM