If you’ve ever had acid reflux it can often be one of the most uncomfortable burning sensations in your stomach and esophagus/throat, resembling hot sauce or boiling lava. Quite literally speaking, acid reflux happens when the acidic gastric contents of your stomach go up into your throat. Yikes! Believe it or not, there are foods that can act like triggers, and if you’ve come to this article, you’re curious what those 9 acid reflux foods to avoid are. Before we get to those, let’s get a better understanding of what acid reflux is, how it is diagnosed, why it isn’t the same as heart burn, and what those foods to avoid are.
Acid reflux happens when the contents of the stomach end up back in the throat. As you may know, gastric contents can be as, if not more, acidic than battery acid. When the ring that connects the esophagus to your stomach (this is called the lower esophageal sphincter aka LES), doesn’t actually completely close, acid reflux can ensue, spilling acid into your esophagus, eating away at the lining and ending up in the throat.
Additionally, there are other negative health consequences associated with the LES not closing completely, like nausea, bloating, dark (or bloody) stool, weight changes or significant weight loss, or the feeling of having something in your throat all the time.
Unlike heartburn, which is felt in the chest, acid reflux is more felt in the throat. Common acid reflux symptoms may actually include heartburn, or an acidic taste in your mouth, gurgling in your throat, or an unpleasant taste. [R]
Others acid reflux symptoms may include:
- coughing up acid
- chronic hiccups
- hoarseness in your voice
- chronic bad breath
- feeling nauseated or unwell
Acid reflux is often confused with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) but they are not the same thing. Occasional acid reflux might happen, however, if you experience acid reflux more than twice a week, a physician may tell you that you have acid reflux disease, aka GERD, which affects around 20 percent of Americans. [R] It is important to consider other contributing factors that may contribute the negative side effects of acid reflux with a physician, such as a hiatal hernia or other underlying cause, just to be safe. Before you reach for the TUMS or Tic Tacs, we recommend addressing the root cause of the acid reflux, rather than just covering it up with a bandaid method.
The following foods are those that are most often seen in a normal diet and either have spicy properties or they fall on the acidic side of the pH scale. [R] Depending on how bad your acid reflux is, some of these foods may be more tolerable than others, whereas some people may want to avoid all 9 of these common acid reflux triggers.
- Spicy Food
- Acidic Drinks
- High Fat or Fried Foods
- Citrus Fruits
If you’re experiencing the negative side effects of acid reflux or heartburn, it is important to note that the food you put in your body can also make it better, not just worse. When you think about the way that stomach acid works, acid on acid can make things more aggravated, similar to pouring salt on an open wound. [R] Low-acid foods simply means that the pH of the food has a value of 5 or higher on the pH scale. Now, instead of running to your fridge taking out the food in there and trying to figure out the pH, let’s just give you a list, shall we?
Low pH Food Examples:
- Egg Whites (9 pH)
- Bananas (5 pH)
- Brown Rice (6.5 pH)
- Melons (6.2 pH)
- Oatmeal (6.6 pH)
- Whole Wheat Bread (6.1 pH)
- Lean Fish (7 pH)
- Chicken (6 pH)
- Tofu (8 pH)
Ginger may inhibit intestinal cholinergic M3 and serotonergic 5-HT3 receptors, which may result in decreased nausea and vomiting, as well as increased gastric motility and decreased transit time in the GI. [R] Toss some fresh ginger or minced ginger into a stir fry or a blended smoothie. Powdered ginger is easy to mix into food, like oatmeal. There’s also ginger tea that is usually non-caffeinated. While ginger may help some with the symptoms of acid reflux, especially nausea, more conclusive studies are needed to prove this to be an effective method to manage LES malfunction. [R]
While the studies done in humans are extremely limited, some rodent studies have shown that there may be a relationship between anethole. This is a chemical derivative of fennel oil that may help support gastric emptying in adults. [R] Fennel is found in the fresh vegetable section of the grocery store and every part of the plant is edible (just wash it really well!). You can toss fennel in a smoothie, roast it with some chicken, toss it into a salad, or use it as an ingredient in other things like soup and pasta dishes. Fennel is often also used to season/braise fish as well as animal meats.
There are many studies that support licorice as an effective way to manage the negative symptoms associated with acid reflux. The reason comes down to licorice’s anti-ulcerogenic properties, as well as the promotion of mucus production, and prostaglandin inhibition. [R] Both licorice root powder and licorice substitutes have been shown to significantly reduce indigestion symptoms, such as a sour taste, nausea, burning sensations in the throat, as well as in the chest. [R] Licorice can be consumed as a supplement, in a powder form, tincture, or in tea.
While it might seem underrated, water is one of the best ways to regulate the GI system all the way from the mouth to the anus. Water is a great way to move food throughout the system, keep our organs running in tip top shape, and to balance out our stomach acid. [R] Without water, we become dehydrated and we starve our body of the liquid it needs to do the most basic, and often most important functions, like balancing stomach acid and closing the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) so that acid doesn’t come back up your throat in the first place. We recommend drinking no less than 100 oz of water per day (yes, we said PER DAY).
All in all, if you experience something that has negative health consequences in the body, then it is important to take responsibility of your health and to avoid the foods that trigger acid reflux to happen in the first place. A common conversation that we have in nutrition coaching is that it isn’t because you’re limited or restricted, but simply because when you eat these particular foods, they have negative consequences. When you have negative health consequences for your behavior, you end up willingly choosing to inflict pain or harm on yourself, and this is not a way to take care of yourself of the amazing body that you have. Prioritize your health, take ownership and responsibility of your behavior, and avoid these 9 acid reflux foods to promote your overall health and well-being.
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