Keeping a Heartburn Journal

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.
  • Log your foods. This is very important step. Consider not only what you ate just prior to experiencing symptoms, but what you ate earlier as well. Certain foods seem to increase the incidence of GERD symptoms by weakening the lower esophageal sphincter, lessening its ability to keep stomach contents in the stomach. Look for patterns and begin limiting or avoiding the foods that seem to trigger your symptoms. Watch out for these common triggers:

    Alcohol, butter or margarine, caffeine-containing foods and beverages, carbonated beverages, chocolate and cocoa, citrus fruits and citrus juices, coffee (regular and decaf), cream-based sauces, fatty meats, fried foods, garlic, gravy, high-fat foods, mint flavors, nuts and nut butters (including peanut butter), oils, onions, pastries, pepper, peppermint, salad dressings, spearmint, spicy foods, tomatoes and tomato products, and vinegar.
  • Consider other habits. Other behaviors can make a difference too. Did you eat on the run, or eat and then run soon after? The following habits can all trigger symptoms: consuming large meals; eating too quickly; lying down soon after meals; exercising too soon after meals; and wearing tight-fitting clothing or belts.
Remember that even if you are able to eliminate your GERD symptoms, it is still important to consult with your doctor. Even without symptoms, GERD can still be present and may lead to serious medical complications if left untreated.

Besides acting as a tool that will help you to modify your own behavior and symptoms, your heartburn journal is also a great way to help you communicate with your doctor as you develop a plan to battle your burn.
Click here to to redeem your SparkPoints
  You will earn 5 SparkPoints

Member Comments

Thanks Report
Great information! Report
Thanks for the info Report
Good article. Report
Great article! Report
Great info! Thanks! Report
Thanks for the great information! :) Report
Great info! Thanks! Report
I was having constant clearing of my throat and choking, chest pains, respiratory infections. I thought they were all unrelated until I had a swallowing test done. I have silent reflux. This can lead to severe problems including cancer.
I have not tried the food journal but I will. Losing weight has helped. Unfortunately, a lot of the meds I have taken for Multiple Sclerosis have not helped the problem.
Mine had gotten better until I had ACDF surgery. It will get better again once my esophagus heals more. Report
Just started keeping track on Spark again. I like the note idea. I just recently realized chocolate seems to really set it off along with the IBS bloat. Too much peanut butter will do it too. Anyway, spark helped me lose 30 lbs. ten yrs ago. Gained it back since I have had allergies for the past 3 yrs. Its not just food that sparks the gerd and ibs, also, air allergens set it off for me too. Now I am keeping notes in the nutrition tracker. Thanks Spark. Report
Good points. Report
ANYTHING at ALL citrus !! EVEN if it's only a lemon honey cough drop !! Tomato's and I have been DEEP enemies since this all started when I was 14 ! YES 14. Both my parents have it as do 3 of my siblings out of 4 (the "other" is an ODD duck ALL the way around. If he and I didn't look exactly like identical twins I'd be SCARED he's NOT one of us ! LOL). Tomato's also eat the skin off the insides of my mouth as do most citrus items.

Chocolates IF eaten 5 hrs before bed (naps included thankfully it's rare I am sleepy now other than night,,,, has A LOT to do with my weight loss AND a change in med) of ANY type including such as hot chocolate, in anything such as pudding, pies etc.

TY for the article which does mention Barrett's esophagus which I've had for at least 6 yrs and YES ALWAYS keep up with ones appointment for a G! !! My step Mom (so of course no relation) didn't think anything more than "foods not to eat" and by the time she was diagnosed with it,,, sadly she passed in only 6 months ! She went from being this very energetic person to that as said in only 6 months. Report
My tips on how I completely cured my heartburn & acid reflux.
Tip 1; an immediate relief is found via root ginger. Seems to neutralise the esophagus immediately.
Tip 2; apple cider vinegar diluted with a bit of water and then down it. Every morning.
Tip 3; have a look at the free video on solvehealthproble and just follow the methods it gives you. Takes about a week but reflux symptoms will then be gone forever.
Tip 4; dont push your luck! once you feel your symptoms have relieved still don’t be silly and have that greasy take away! Be cautious what you eat without it ruling your life.

Acid reflux can indeed cause many various symptoms, I think thats another thing what struggled me for many years when i had it
have not had heartburn in a while.
orange juice
allot of drinking (party)
really very fatty foods
a pie is a killer halfway the heartburn starts.

this is with triggers it for me. carbs being the worst of the lot. its like instant heartburn Report
This is weird! I had acid reflux when I was 35 pounds heavier and ate junk a lot! Now I never have acid reflux. I was on nexium prior to the weight loss too! I stopped taking it and began eating healthy and have had no acid reflux at all no matter what I eat! I have eaten tomatoes (a trigger before) and even sauces. The only thing that happens is I get those canker sores on my tongue from too much acid, but even they are less.. It's just weird! Report


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.