7 Foods To Avoid With Acid Reflux
Almost everybody experiences occasional acid reflux episodes now and then. As long as it doesn’t happen regularly, it can be perfectly normal.
However, regular acid reflux problems (called GERD or gastroesophageal reflux disease) affects about 20% of adults in the US and most developed countries. This makes GERD one of the most common health issues.
While there are certain risk factors of acid reflux – like being overweight, smoking, alcohol, coffee, certain medications – many people find that their symptoms are triggered by certain foods.
Let’s take a closer look at what acid reflux is, what the most common trigger foods and symptoms are:
What Is Acid Reflux?
Acid reflux happens when stomach acids can flow back (reflux) into the esophagus. The highly acidic digestive juices might irritate the lining of the esophagus, causing a burning sensation in the chest.
Sometimes the acids can flow up into the throat and cause symptoms there. This condition is called silent reflux. (It is called silent because acids usually don’t spend enough time in the food pipe to cause symptoms there.)
Those who are prone to acid reflux find that sine foods are more likely to trigger symptoms than others. Even though there is no definitive list of such “trigger foods”, some foods seem to cause symptoms for quite a lot of people.
These are the six most common trigger foods for acid reflux:
Foods and drinks (e.g. soda) with high added sugar content are common triggers.
Excess sugar can not only make you overweight, which is a risk factor of reflux, but your body might produce gas while digesting sugar. This increases pressure in the stomach, which might push stomach acids back to the food pipe.
However, small amounts of sugar usually don’t cause any problems for healthy individuals.
2. Fatty Foods
Fat is the hardest food to digest and many people tend to eat too much of such foods.
Too much greasy food in the stomach puts enormous pressure on the entire digestive system. Fat stays longer in the stomach than other types of food and the stomach secretes more digestive acids.
A stomach full of fat can make acid reflux attacks more likely.
Chocolate is not only high in sugar and fat, but it also contains an ingredient, called theobromine, which is known to make acid reflux episodes more likely.
Because of the higher fat and sugar content, milk chocolate is more likely to trigger symptoms. Dark chocolate is usually a safer option for people with acid reflux.
Coffee, one of the world’s most popular morning drinks, can also cause symptoms.
It has been shown that caffeine is a trigger factor for acid reflux.
To make things worse, we often add sugar and milk to the coffee. Both sugar and cow milk – because of its fat content – can make reflux symptoms more likely.
5. Citrus fruits
Orange, grapefruit, lime, lemon – they all have numerous health benefits. However, they are also highly acidic, so those who are prone to acid reflux might want to steer clear of them.
If your esophagus is damaged because of previous acid reflux attacks, the irritation these acidic fruits cause might trigger severe chest pain.
It might sound surprising, but tomatoes are also common triggers for those, who have already developed GERD. The good news is that they usually don’t cause symptoms for healthy people.
Tomatoes are actually very acidic and when consumed might increase stomach acid levels and some of the excess stomach acids might seep up into the food pipe.
The effects of pineapple on acid reflux are still debated.
Some say it’s a great remedy because of its bromelain content. This is a protein-digestive enzyme that boosts digestion, therefore it should help with acid reflux symptoms.
Others say pineapple should be avoided as it is very acidic, which might trigger symptoms.
These are the most common symptoms of acid reflux:
- Heartburn: When stomach acids make it back to the food pipe and irritate the lining of the esophagus, you might feel a burning pain around the middle of the chest. This is called heartburn and it is the most common symptom of acid reflux.
- Regurgitation: We talk about regurgitation when you feel like food and digestive juices are traveling up and down in the esophagus. Some of the digestive juices might end up in the mouth, causing a sour taste and damaging the enamel of the teeth.
- Coughing: Eating-related coughing is usually caused by either reflux or food allergy. If coughing is accompanied by a sour taste, chances are it is reflux.
- Dysphagia: This means the difficulty of swallowing. This usually happens when the food pipe is more sensitive than normal, caused by the damage of stomach acids.
How To Relieve Symptoms?
Dietary and lifestyle changes can help a lot in managing symptoms of acid reflux sufferers.
These are the most common things people should do in order to relieve their symptoms:
- eat less, more frequently
- eat slowly, chew your food well
- do not eat 2-3 hours before going to bed
- light physical exercises – like a short walk – after meals might help digestion
- know your trigger foods and avoid them
Finding out what foods trigger your symptoms is not always easy, You might want to use a food diary to keep track of what foods you’ve eaten and whether they caused your symptoms or not
After a week or two reviewing the food diary will help to identify the foods that trigger symptoms for you.
Acid reflux and GERD are very common health issues in the developed world.
Chest pain and coughing after eating, regurgitation, swallowing problems are the most common symptoms.
While the exact causes are not fully understood yet, a healthy diet and lifestyle can prevent or at least mitigate the symptoms.
If you think you have acid reflux, you should visit a gastroenterologist for a proper diagnosis. Your doctor can help you with lifestyle and dietary advice tailored to your individual needs.
If changing your eating habits is not enough, you might need to take medications to manage your condition.