If you have been experiencing burning pain in the lower chest area, you may be suffering from acid reflux. If this occurs more than twice a week, you may be diagnosed with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Having this disease can take a toll on your quality of life or even lead to serious conditions if not treated. Luckily, you can control your acid reflux by eating the right kind of food. This article is about food to avoid when dealing with acid reflux. Read on to learn more.
What is Acid Reflux?
Acid reflux is a common condition when some of the acid content in the stomach flows up into the esophagus. The backflow happens when the gastroesophageal sphincter, a ring of muscle that prevents the backflow of stomach contents into the esophagus. Though the condition happens commonly, it can cause troublesome symptoms, like heartburn or even cause complications.
GERD affects people of all ages due to preventable or non-preventable reasons. One of the non-preventable causes of GERD is a hiatal hernia (a hole in the diaphragm that allows the upper part of the stomach to enter the chest cavity). Other risk factors include:
- Low levels of physical exercise
- Medications, including antihistamines, antidepressants, sedatives, and painkillers.
Pregnant women can also experience acid reflux due to the increased pressure on internal organs.
How Will Acid Reflux Affect Your Quality of Life?
GERD can affect your quality of life as well as lifestyle in several ways. In addition to the discomfort caused by the burning feeling, GERD can also cause other issues like:
- Chronic cough or hoarseness
- Asthma may get worse
- Change to the esophagus, increasing cancer risk
- Ulcers in the esophagus
- Narrowing of the esophagus due to scarring
Luckily there are various acid reflux treatment and prevention options available today. For acid reflux treatment, your doctor can prescribe alginate drugs, h2 blockers, PPIs, and over–the–counter treatments, like antacids. In addition, eating certain foods can help you minimize the symptoms.
Foods to Avoid with Acid Reflux
There are several ways that food can contribute to acid reflux, including:
- How you position your body after eating
- The amount of food taken in a single meal
- The types of food you eat
Therefore, by changing your body position to an upright posture after eating and eating smaller portions, you can minimize the chances of having reflux. Also, knowing the foods to eat and those to avoid can help you. Below are some foods you should avoid to prevent indigestion and other acid reflux symptoms.
High Fat and Fried Foods
Since fatty foods lower pressure on your lower esophageal sphincter and delay stomach emptying, their consumption may increase your risk for reflux symptoms. Therefore, it is advisable to avoid high-fat meals and fried foods if you are experiencing acid reflux. Below are some of the high-fat foods to avoid:
- Potato chips
- French fries
- Deep-fried onion rings
- Ice cream
- Whole milk
- High fat sour milk
- Creamy sauces and dips
- High-fat cuts of meat, like the prime rib and marbled sirloin
Some studies have suggested that spicy foods can cause burning symptoms if one has a gastrointestinal disorder. Capsaicin, the chemical compound that adds a spicy taste to food, can irritate parts of the esophagus, causing acid reflux. For example, a 2017 study about food inducing typical gastroesophageal reflux disease symptoms in Korea found that hot and spicy stews led to GERD symptoms in more than 50 percent of the assessed cases.
Some Fruits and Vegetables
Though fruits and vegetables are essential parts of our diet, some can worsen your GERD symptoms. Below are some fruits and veggies that can lead to reflux:
- Citrus fruits, like lemons, oranges, limes, and grapefruit
- Garlic and onions
If these foods are an important part of your diet, you can discuss your tolerance level with your doctor. A dietician can also help you develop eating patterns that can help manage your condition.
Below are some drinks that can trigger symptoms in people with GERD.
- Coffee and tea
- Citrus and tomato juices
- Carbonated beverages
Since people have different tolerance levels, you should pay attention to your individual symptoms when choosing the beverages to consume.
Chocolate contains methylxanthine, an ingredient that has been shown to increase reflux by relaxing the smooth muscle in the lower esophageal sphincter.
Mint and products with mint flavoring, like breath mints and chewing gum, can also trigger or worsen acid reflux symptoms.
Other Foods, Medications, and Supplements
Several other foods, medications, and supplements can cause your lower esophageal sphincter to function poorly, leading to GERD symptoms. You may experience acid reflux symptoms after consuming:
- Heavily processed foods
- Aspirin and other pain relievers
- Calcium channel blockers
- Potassium and iron supplements
If you are taking any medication mentioned above, you should talk with your doctor before stopping them.
Foods to Eat
Since reflux symptoms result from stomach acid getting into the esophagus and causing irritation, people with too much acid should try these foods to manage the symptoms.
Thanks to their low fat and sugar content, vegetables are good for people with acid reflex. The best vegetables include broccoli, green beans, cauliflower, asparagus, potatoes, cucumbers, and leafy greens.
Since diets high in fiber have a lower risk of acid reflux, oatmeal, a whole grain full of fiber, is a good choice if you have GERD.
Thanks to ginger’s anti-inflammatory properties, it can soothe heartburn and other gastrointestinal problems. To ease acid reflux symptoms, you can drink ginger tea or add sliced ginger to smoothies.
Non-citrus fruits like bananas, melons, pears, and apples do not trigger acid reflux symptoms.
Acid reflux can negatively impact your quality of life, but various preventive measures and treatment methods are available. Though there is no proven diet to prevent acid reflex, adjusting your eating habits and diet can help reduce your acid reflux symptoms, reducing your antacid use. For example, consuming more fiber in fruits and vegetables can protect against GERD. You should also avoid the intake of spicy foods, citrus fruits, and high-fat foods to prevent acid reflux symptoms.