Acid reflux, also known as GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), is a digestive disorder that occurs when stomach acid or bile affects the food pipelining. If you have frequent acid reflux along with heartburn more than twice a week, it is commonly known as GERD. Acid reflux symptoms include burning in the chest, normally after eating. Acid reflux is also interchangeable with terms like heartburn, acid indigestion, and reflux (1).
It is very prominent in the United States, affecting 18.5 million people in the United States, and it is especially high in the elderly population (2). Persistent acid reflux or GERD continues from many lifestyle factors beyond food as well. These include chronic stress (3), nutrient deficiencies, sedentary lifestyles, certain medications such as hormonal contraceptives (4), poor eating habits, smoking, obesity, hypothyroidism (5), and food sensitivities.
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Foods that trigger & can cause Acid reflux (Heartburn)
This disease is common, but there are many things you can do to stop it in its tracks. It is important to keep a healthy balanced diet and get to the root cause of issues like acid reflux if you want to be able to consume foods you once were able to enjoy. Common triggers of acid reflux or GERD include specific foods. Find out what foods can trigger acid reflux and what might be helpful to stop eating today.
1. Spicy Foods
Spicy foods cause acid reflux because they can irritate the food pipeline. These are a common trigger food for many who suffer from acid reflux or GERD. Try to avoid foods like spicy peppers, certain seasonings, hot and spicy stews, and extra condiments like hot sauce if you regularly suffer from acid reflux (6).
2. Caffeinated Tea
Tea is another common trigger, although it varies per person. Certain types of tea may irritate the food pipe lining more than others as well. You may be ok with non-caffeinated teas, for example. Caffeinated teas, like green or black tea, usually cause the most trouble among those who suffer from acid reflux or GERD.
However, herbal teas like ginger tea in small doses can aid in relief for acid reflux. Although more studies are needed, ginger is naturally anti-inflammatory and can be a contributor to acid reflux relief (7).
Coffee is a big trigger for acid reflux because it is highly acidic. Acidic foods can cause a spasm or weakening of the lower esophageal sphincter, which causes acid reflux. Coffee is a common drink among all cultures, but for some, it might be best to avoid it altogether or until symptoms resolve.
The foods that trigger acid reflux vary per person and can frequently change in time as well. There are many alternatives to coffee that do not have any acid, too. If tea is not a trigger for you, choose a non-acidic coffee-flavored beverage instead.
4. Citrus Juices and Soda
Citrus juices like lemon, orange, and more are all highly acidic. Acidic juices can cause acid reflux to ignite. This is especially true if the juice is made with extra sugar and chemical additives. Juices in the United States are more acidic than fresh juices in many other countries for example.
Soda is another beverage to leave out for those with acid reflux. Soda is high in acid, caffeine, and excess sugar, so it is a trifecta of an irritant for those with acid reflux.
Peppermint is not a good choice for those who suffer from acid reflux because it can irritate the gut lining. Peppermint or mint, in general, can be in many different recipes. Make sure to avoid it when eating out in restaurants as best as possible. Avoid mint leaves, peppermint tea, and anything that may cause extra symptoms for you.
Cocoa and cacao are generally healthy food in moderation for most, so why is it bad for those with acid reflux? Chocolate is high in caffeine, a huge irritant to the esophageal lining. Since cocoa is a naturally relaxing food, it causes the esophageal sphincter to push out serotonin. When that happens, acid produces more freely in the esophagus, which can cause acid reflux.
Garlic is one of the most common additives in the kitchen. But garlic can irritate the lining of the esophagus, producing symptoms of acid reflux. Doctors don’t recommend garlic if you suffer from acid reflux. Instead of garlic, switch to a non-spicy seasoning with just as much flavoring, without the irritation that garlic can give.
8. Raw Onions
Onions are a portion of healthy food for many, but they can be a huge trigger for those with acid reflux. Onions can stimulate acid production, especially in the raw form. Cooked onions may not be a trigger for many with acid reflux, but everyone is unique to what they can eat. Cooking onions can help put out any symptoms that may arise with acid reflux or GERD.
Alcohol is highly acidic, so it is one of the worst contributors to acid reflux. Red wine is particularly an issue because of its high acidity compared to other alcoholic drinks. Since alcohol normally comes with some type of juice or soda mixture, it’s a cocktail for extreme acid reflux among those who suffer from it.
Acid reflux or GERD should not be left untreated. Always speak to your doctor about what you can do to lower your risk. Many foods can trigger the onset of acid reflux or GERD, so it’s important to watch what you eat and pay attention to what specific foods bother you.
Remember that acid reflux comes with several risk factors beyond food, too. They can include Hiatal hernias, obesity, pregnancy, smoking, certain medications, chronic stress, and more. Acid reflux can happen from an imbalance in the gut microbiome, too. Try to maintain a healthy, balanced diet and any trigger foods to avoid acid reflux flare-ups. Reach out to your doctor if you think you have acid reflux and see if there is anything you can do to resolve it.