You might be familiar with the following symptoms if you are suffering from an acid reflux condition – the burning feeling in your chest or the bitter taste sensation within your mouth or even the feeling that your stomach is bloated. These symptoms can get quite uncomfortable and can vary depending on the severity of your acid reflux condition.
However, it is good to know that on average 60% of UK adults experience acid reflux symptoms within a year while half of that experience those symptoms weekly. As a result, there are many various clinically proven treatments that help to reduce the impact of those symptoms. These acid reflux treatments can vary depending on the intended use, where over-the-counter treatments like Gaviscon can help reduce the discomfort like prescription treatments like omeprazole can help to treat the condition.
It is, however, important to also know that one of the best starting points for treating acid reflux is adjusting your diet. Some specific types of food can be the primary trigger for the overproduction of stomach acid and therefore can be the key cause of acid reflux symptoms. As a result, cutting down on these foods can often help fight the severity and frequency of acid reflux symptoms.
What Foods can Trigger Acid Reflux?
Unfortunately, the list of those food triggers can vary from person to person. For example, individuals who experience acid reflux regularly will be aware of the trigger foods and therefore will try to avoid them.
However, if you started experiencing acid reflux symptoms recently, it could be beneficial for you to keep track of your diet that correlates with the symptoms. This approach can assist you with working out which foods tend to set off your acid reflux symptoms and therefore make you aware of the diet adjustments that need to take place.
Even though not everyone has the exact same trigger foods, some of those foods tend to have a higher chance of triggering acid reflux for the majority of individuals.
These include but are not limited to:
Alcohol, just like other foods and drinks in the following list, is proven to relax your oesophageal sphincter. Even though it does not directly cause acid reflux, some alcoholic drinks like beer and wine cause an overproduction of gastric acid in your stomach.
The combination of these two symptoms increases the chance of the acid travelling up to the oesophagus and irritating its lining, triggering acid reflux symptoms. Furthermore, constant and excessive consumption of alcohol can also deal some damage to the oesophagus lining, making it more prone to irritation from stomach acid in the long run.
Just like alcohol, coffee is proven to relax the oesophageal sphincter. Even though the connection between acid reflux symptoms and consumption of coffee is still inconclusive, some studies indicate that consuming coffee increases the chances of stomach acid reaching the lower oesophageal sphincter, leading to acid reflux symptoms. On the other hand, some other studies suggested that there is no connection between the two.
However, if consumption of coffee does trigger your acid reflux symptoms, it might be worth trying to avoid or reduce the intake of coffee to check the link for you specifically.
Some individuals commonly consume milk to reduce the symptoms of acid reflux condition. In theory, consumption of milk counteracts the stomach acid, alleviating your acid reflux symptoms.
In reality, however, it is much more complex than that – consumption of milk that neutralises the stomach acid will cause your stomach to produce even more acid. As a result, considering overproduction is one of the key causes of acid reflux, consumption of milk can actually worsen the symptoms in the long run, increasing the amount of experienced discomfort.
On the other hand, it is important to consider the type of milk you are consuming. Some research suggests that higher fat milk are more likely to worsen the chances of experiencing acid reflux compared to less fat types of milk like skimmed or semi-skimmed.
4. Spicy Food
It is very often that individuals experience severe acid reflux symptoms after consuming spicy foods. Even though some research suggests that even though spicy food might not cause the oesophageal sphincter to relax, it is proved that it takes longer to process and digest spicy food compared to other foods.
This is where the key acid reflux trigger hides – a longer digestion time means that the food can be stored in the stomach for longer periods, increasing the risk of experiencing heartburn. For example, some studies connected the consumption of chilli powder to slower digestion speed and time. As a result, this could be the primary reason or trigger of acid reflux symptoms for the majority of individuals.
Furthermore, the consumption of spicy food can directly irritate the lining of the oesophagus, which is usually not an issue for individuals that do not experience acid reflux. However, for those who do experience this condition, spicy food could make the symptoms of having inflamed oesophagus and, therefore, acid reflux, worse.
As well as other foods, chocolate causes the oesophageal tract to relax. One of the key reasons is the fact that chocolate contains tryptophan, an ingredient that after processing generates serotonin. Even though serotonin is known as the “Hormone of happiness”, it affects the body in more ways than just improving mood, for example, reducing the pressure placed on the lower oesophagal sphincter.
Furthermore, cocoa also contains caffeine as well as theobromine which, according to some research, causes the oesophageal tract to relax and, therefore, increase the chances of acid reflux symptoms.
All types of onions, especially raw ones, cause the lower oesophageal tract to relax, increasing the chances of stomach acid to flow up and irritate the lining.
To make matters worse, onions have a relatively high proportion of fermentable fibre which causes belching upon consumption. For people who do not experience acid reflux, it is not an issue – this fibre stimulates the growth of healthy bacteria in the colon as well as helping to maintain stable blood glucose levels and suppressing bad cholesterol. However, for people who do suffer from acid reflux, consumption of fermentable fibre can aggravate the acid reflux symptoms as well as triggering digestive problems due to containing carbohydrates called FODMAPs.
7. Meals with High Fat Levels
High-fat meals are proven to trigger acid reflux for many reasons. One of them, as mentioned previously, is the fact that those meals tend to relax the lower oesophagal tract, resulting in acid flow up to the actual oesophagus, irritating the lining and causing discomfort.
Furthermore, foods that contain high levels of fat stimulate the production of cholecystokinin (or CCK) hormones. This specific hormone is produced by the digestive system in order to help with the digestion of fat and retain. The issue with producing CCK is the fact that it further relaxes the oesophageal sphincter, making the time to digest food longer and therefore increasing the risks of acid reflux symptoms appearing.
What Foods Help Avoiding Acid Reflux?
Even though there are many foods that could be considered as trigger for acid reflux, the good news is there are some foods that do help with reducing the risk of acid reflux occurring. These foods tend to have low-acidity features, which reduce acid reflux symptoms substantially. These include:
- Oats and Porridge – oats contain high levels of healthy fibre that is proved to absorb stomach acid, therefore reducing the risk of lining irritation and acid reflux symptoms.
- Ginger – high in antioxidants, ginger helps to reduce inflammation and acid reflux symptoms, as well as providing other health benefits.
- Lean Meat and Seafood – Meats like chicken or turkey and seafood contain low levels of fat and generally tend to lower stomach acid production.
- Green Vegetables – vegetables like leafy greens, broccoli, asparagus and green beans contain low sugar levels and help reducing stomach acid production levels.
- Non-citrus Fruit – fruit like bananas and melons tend to have low levels of acidity and contain magnesium which is an element often found in many acid reflux treatments.
What Else Can I Do to Reduce Acid Reflux Symptoms?
Even though food can be considered as a key acid reflux trigger, there are other various key causes of this condition. You may achieve more permanent relief from acid reflux by making lifestyle adjustments like exercising more often, losing weight, giving up smoking and eating smaller meals.
However, if acid reflux is affecting your ability to perform your day-to-day activities, it is worth consulting with your GP in order to find the right treatment plan for you.