Acid reflux, also known as gastroesophageal reflux, is a disease or condition where the food pipe lining is irritated by stomach bile or acid due to the esophageal sphincter not working properly. This condition can be extremely uncomfortable due to symptoms of heartburn, nausea, regurgitation, and belching. The diet you choose can greatly affect the extent of your disease and may worsen or better the symptoms of your acid reflux. Find out what five foods are playing a large role in worsening your acid reflux in order to lessen your symptoms and live a more enjoyable life.
#1: Caffeinated Beverages and Foods
Beverages that contain caffeine such as coffee, tea, carbonated beverages, and energy drinks are likely to worsen acid reflux for numerous reasons. Caffeinated drinks are likely to increase the acidity of gastric secretions meaning, acid is more likely to be released into the stomach from glands in the stomach wall.
Not only do beverages contain caffeine but foods such as chocolate, cereals, and ice cream can contain hidden amounts. These foods and beverages also relax the esophageal sphincter, allowing more stomach acid to be regurgitated, causing irritation. That being said, increased stomach acidity along with a relaxed esophageal sphincter can overall cause inflammation in the esophagus due to the acids breaking down the tissue.
#2: Spicy Foods
Capsaicin, found in many spicy foods, is known to be an active component of chili peppers that can be a chemical irritant causing burning of the tissue. Capsaicin is known to slow down digestion resulting in food sitting in the stomach for a longer period of time. Acid reflux and heartburn are more likely to be triggered, the longer food sits in your stomach as the food puts pressure on the ring of the muscle that keeps stomach acids in place. Along with that, spicy food can simply irritate the esophageal lining when swallowing, overall worsening your acid reflux.
#3: Garlic and Onion
Onions and garlic, known to be staple ingredients for many recipes, have always been known to have heart-protective benefits. Although this may be true, these ingredients should be avoided as they can be known to contribute to your acid reflux.
Due to the amount of time the onion sits in your stomach after ingesting it, it tends to stimulate gastric acid which can exacerbate your symptoms. Similarly in garlic, certain compounds found in the ingredient can irritate the digestive tract causing burning symptoms in the chest. Overall, the more pungent the onion or garlic is, the worse it can be for your acid reflux.
Peppermint even simply found in gum, mints, or treats may be inappropriate to consume if you are experiencing acid reflux. Chewing gum after a meal is actually beneficial in reducing acid reflux symptoms, but choosing peppermint flavored gum is a common mistake. Peppermint is commonly known to open the lower esophageal sphincter due to its soothing and relaxing properties, resulting in an easier pathway for food to travel upward and burn the lining of the throat. Anyone with heartburn, acid reflux, or GERD symptoms should avoid all mint-flavored products to avoid the irritation that may come along with it.
#5: Creamy Sauces and Dips
Butter, cheese, cream, and many other saturated fats can typically be incorporated into sauces, dips, and dressings. These full-fat dairy ingredients commonly delay stomach emptying, which as mentioned before, increases the likelihood of acid reflux. Another reason these foods should be avoided is that fatty foods may release the hormone, cholecystokinin. This hormone, similar to peppermint, relaxes the esophageal sphincter allowing many acids and foods to be regurgitated leading to irritation in the throat.
As many foods and ingredients can trigger your acid reflux and may contribute to worsening symptoms, it’s important to pay attention to your body’s needs. Although some foods may benefit others, it is important to understand what works best for your body and determine which foods benefit you the most regarding your acid reflux.
If you are unsure what steps to take next regarding your acid reflux condition, Nourished Routes provides one-on-one services with a registered dietitian who is passionate and committed to your health. With the help of a registered dietitian, past clients have identified which foods may trigger their condition and have an overall decreased confusion around healthy eating that is best suited for their body and goals.
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This article was written by Sammy Bran, nutrition intern. Fact checked by Allison Tallman RD.