5 Best and Worst Foods for Acid Reflux
Ever feel a burning sensation or discomfort in your stomach, upper chest, or throat after eating? Ever have an acidic, sour, or bitter taste backing up into your throat or mouth after meals? You might have heartburn! Acid reflux disease, which may also be called heartburn or GERD, is fairly common. Fortunately, there are things you can do to help ease your symptoms. Acid reflux treatment can include avoiding food triggers, staying upright after meals, or taking medications recommended by your doctor1. Below, we will cover how reflux happens, foods that cause reflux, and some foods that can help tame it!
How Does Reflux Happen?
Acid reflux can happen a couple of different ways1. When we eat, food travels from our mouth down to the stomach through a tube called the esophagus. Where the esophagus meets the stomach, there is a valve called the Lower Esophageal Sphincter (LES). This valve, the LES, is supposed to stay closed after we eat, so that food and stomach acids stay in the stomach. Some foods relax the LES, which allows food and stomach acids to travel back up (reflux). Being overweight can also place pressure on the LES, allowing the valve to open a bit. Another cause of acid reflux is eating foods that contain compounds that are irritating. These compounds can trigger our stomach to produce more acid than normal or are themselves a bit acidic. Read on for some foods to avoid and some foods to try!
Top 5 Foods that Cause Acid Reflux
Every person is unique, and what causes acid reflux for you, might not cause it for someone else. Keeping a food journal can help you identify your triggers2. Here are 5 common foods that may be causing your symptoms:
Coffee. All caffeinated foods and drinks, but especially coffee (even if the coffee is decaf!) can cause LES valve to relax. When the LES valve relaxes, reflux results.
High-acid fruit. Oranges, grapefruit, other citrus, pineapple, tomatoes, and their juices are all naturally high in acid. Acidic foods trigger acid reflux because these foods add to the acid already churning around in your stomach. Whether you have a smoothie, salsa, or pineapple curry, be wary!
Spicy foods. Spicy foods can irritate your esophagus, which may already be irritated by acid reflux. In addition, hot peppers found in many spicy foods can keep food in your stomach longer, creating more opportunity for acid reflux to occur. Salsas, sambols, curries, hot sauces, jerk seasoning, hot mustards, anything that makes your mouth tingle can be a trigger.
Fried and fatty foods. Fried and fatty foods have two different features that make them reflux kings. Fatty foods stay in the stomach longer and they relax the LES valve. The longer a food is in your stomach, the more chance it has to produce acid that will sneak back up. French fries, potato chips, fried chicken, egg rolls, chimichangas, bacon, and high-fat dairy can all lead to a long night.
Chocolate. Sadly, chocolate makes this list. Chocolate has an unfortunate combination of caffeine, fat, and LES relaxing compounds in cocoa that all add up to reflux.
Top 5 Foods that May Soothe Acid Reflux
Just like there are foods that trigger acid reflux, there are some foods that can help tame the fire and keep your system running well!
Ginger. Ginger has been used to settle the tummy for hundreds of years – and for good reason. It can work! Ginger can relieve some of the pressure on the LES and speed food out of your stomach, which may help manage your symptoms.3 Try sipping ginger tea, ending a meal with a piece of low-sugar dried ginger, or add ginger to smoothies, soups, stews, or brown rice. Try: Ginger, Berries and Oats Smoothie.
Vegetables and low-acid fruit. Most vegetables and low-acid fruits are fiber filled. Fiber can help reduce the pressure on the LES, which can decrease reflux.4 So, fill half of your plate with those non-starchy veggies! Try Broccoli, Cannellini Bean & Cheddar Soup.
Low-fat yogurt. Whether you choose dairy or plant-based yogurt, pick something that is low in fat. Yogurt can coat and soothe your esophagus.5 As a bonus, it contains probiotics that support digestive health! Try: Greek Yogurt with Apples and Walnuts.
Whole grains. Whole grains are a great source of LES pressure-reducing fiber. Leave the refined grains alone and make the switch to whole grains! Try: Easy Salmon Rice Bowl .
Nuts. You may think of nuts as only a great source of heart-healthy fats, but did you know they are also rich in fiber! Add a small handful of nuts to your day to benefit from all these tasty tidbits have to offer. Try: Almond Crusted Tilapia
Work with a GI Nutritionist and Dietitian
You can take the first steps needed to improve your health by scheduling a consult with one of the Foodsmart's registered dietitians. They will work with you on reversing the course of some chronic diseases and getting your on the path to optimal health! Book a visit today!
1 American Society for Gatrointestinal Endoscopy: https://www.asge.org/home/for-patients/patient-information/understanding-gastroesophageal-reflux-disease
2American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy: https://www.asge.org/docs/default-source/about-asge/newsroom/doc-gerd_infographic_final.pdf
3Bodagh MN, Maleki I, Hekmatdoost A. Ginger in gastrointestinal disorders: A systemc review of clinical trials. Accessed from: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/fsn3.807
4Morozov S, Isakov V, and Konovalova M. Fiber-enriched diet helps to control symptoms and improves esophageal motility in patients with non-erosive gastroesophageal reflux disease. Accessed from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5989243/
5Thomas L. Foods that reduce heartburn (acid reflux). Accessed from: https://www.news-medical.net/health/Foods-for-Heartburn.aspx