Acid reflux, that irritating backflow of stomach acid up into your esophagus, is often triggered by what you eat and drink. Eat the wrong food and you’re sure to feel the burn. Some foods are known to cause reflux more than others.
Here are 8 foods to avoid if you have acid reflux, and 8 foods that keep you free from the burn and keep you healthier overall. A win-win!
8 Foods that make acid reflux worse
- Chocolate — Everyone’s favorite treat comes with a dark side; chocolate contains caffeine, cocoa, and plant chemicals that can all trigger heartburn. Also, a chemical in cocoa relaxes the LES, making it easier for stomach contents to leak into your esophagus.
- Peppermint — Known for soothing an irritable bowel, peppermint has the opposite effect on acid reflux. Peppermint relaxes the muscles used for digestion, and a relaxed LES is a leaky LES.
- Fatty foods — If you feel like fatty foods make you sluggish, you’re right. They relax your LES and are slower to digest than other foods. When food sits in your stomach longer, your body responds by making more acid. Fried foods like onion rings are obvious culprits, but meats like prime rib or bacon, and whole milk dairy products also cause symptoms.
- Spicy foods — Spicy foods make acid reflux worse in two ways. First, the capsaicin in many spicy foods can slow digestion. But before it even gets that far, it can irritate an already irritated esophagus on its way down.
- Acidic foods and drinks — Acidic foods are common triggers of acid reflux. Foods like citrus fruits and juices, tomatoes and tomato products, pineapple, and vinaigrette salad dressings all have a high acid content, contributing to an already acidic environment.
- Garlic — Garlic, especially raw, is known to cause heartburn and upset stomach in healthy people. That makes it even more likely to cause issues for those who suffer from acid reflux.
- Onions — Raw onions don’t just make you cry; they stimulate acid production. That extra acid puts you at risk for heartburn.
- Drinks containing alcohol, caffeine, or carbonation — Alcohol and caffeine both relax the LES, allowing acid to leak up your esophagus. The bubbles in carbonation expand your stomach, pushing stomach contents up against the LES. That makes soda, coffee and tea, and alcoholic beverages all triggers. Be especially careful with mixed drinks, which could combine triggers.
8 Foods that help acid reflux
- Vegetables and non-citrus fruits — Aside from the “bad” foods listed above, nearly all fruits and vegetables help reduce stomach acid. They’re also low fat, low sugar, and provide fiber and important nutrients.
- Whole grains — High fiber, whole-grains like brown rice, oatmeal, and whole grain breads help stop symptoms of acid reflux. They are a good source of fiber and may help absorb stomach acid.
- Lean protein — Low-fat, lean sources of protein also reduce symptoms. Good choices are chicken, seafood, tofu, and egg whites. The best ways to prepare them are baked, broiled, poached, or grilled.
- Beans, peas, and lentils — Along with being good sources of fiber, beans, peas, and lentils also provide protein, vitamins and minerals.
- Nuts and seeds — Many nuts and seeds provide fiber and nutrients and may help absorb stomach acid. Almonds, peanuts, chia, pomegranate, and flaxseeds are all healthy choices.
- Yogurt — Not only is yogurt soothing to an irritated esophagus, but it provides probiotics that support your digestive tract. It’s also good source of protein.
- Healthy fats — Fat is a necessary nutrient but eating too many fatty foods can trigger acid reflux. Replacing unhealthy fats with unsaturated fats can help. Avocados, olive oil, walnuts, and soy products are good choices for healthy fats.
- Ginger — Ginger has anti-inflammatory properties and has been used throughout history for gastrointestinal problems. Ginger can be added to smoothies, soups, stir fry, or other dishes, or steeped as a tea.