The Best and Worst Foods for Acid Reflux – Parade

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Getting heartburn from time to time usually isn’t anything to worry about, especially if it happens after you eat an entire large pizza by yourself or have one too many glasses of wine. But, if you find yourself reaching for an antacid all the time no matter what you eat, you likely need to re-evaluate your daily diet.

Diet doesn’t necessarily cause gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), a condition where stomach acid persistently rises up to your mouth and esophagus, says Stacy Cavagnaro, RD, a registered dietitian with Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Human Nutrition, “But what we eat and how we eat can exacerbate uncomfortable symptoms.”

These symptoms include heartburn, or a burning sensation in the chest, she says, as well as lesser-known symptoms such as bloating, chronic cough, difficulty swallowing, and regurgitation.

Eating too quickly, overeating (hello, holiday season), or eating within three to four hours of lying down or going to sleep can make symptoms worse, Cavagnaro says. And certain foods might also make acid reflux worse.

Not sure which foods make your acid reflux worse, and which ones can help the condition? Here’s an overview of the best and worst foods for acid reflux.

Worst foods for acid reflux

1. Fatty and greasy foods

Fried foods, fatty meats, and high-fat dairy, including french fries, chips, cheese, and sour cream, can relax the esophageal sphincter, which is the valve that keeps acid in the stomach, Cavagnaro says. When the esophageal sphincter is relaxed, more acid can seep into the esophagus, causing irritation. High-fat foods are also absorbed more slowly and sit in the stomach longer, causing the stomach to produce extra acid.

2. Coffee

Caffeinated drinks, including coffee, can raise your risk for GERD. Caffeine also relaxes the esophageal sphincter, allowing more acid to creep into the esophagus, causing irritation, Cavagnaro says.

Related: What Exactly is GERD?

3. Alcohol

Drinking alcohol, especially red wine, especially in large quantities can increase the risk of acid reflux. Cavagnaro says alcohol is another food that relaxes the lower esophageal sphincter, making it more likely for acid to flow into the esophagus.

Related: What to Drink for Heartburn Relief

4. Chocolate

Like alcohol and caffeine, chocolate has been shown to affect the valve that keeps acid in the stomach. This allows it to move into the esophagus and mouth and give you heartburn.

5. Peppermint

Peppermint has been shown to help relieve lower GI symptoms, like bloating, abdominal pain, and diarrhea and constipation that come with irritable bowel syndrome, Cavagnaro says. But, peppermint can also trigger GERD symptoms. “If you have any reflux symptoms, steer clear of peppermint teas and supplements,” she adds.

6. Citrus fruits and juices

Citrus fruits and juices, including oranges, pineapple, grapefruit, lemons, and limes, are highly acidic. This leads to more stomach acid that can move up through the esophagus, Cavagnaro says.

7. Tomatoes

Tomatoes and tomato juice are acidic, just like citrus fruits. So, they can trigger acid reflux since eating highly acidic foods leads to more acid in the stomach, Cavagnaro says.

8. Spicy foods

Capsaicin, the compound that gives spicy foods their spice, can slow digestion, which keeps food in the stomach longer, causing acid reflux, Cavagnaro says. It can also irritate the esophagus and worsen the effects of GERD.

9. Onion and garlic

Onions and garlic boost acid production in the stomach, Cavagnaro explains. This can make acid reflux worse.

10. Carbonated drinks

The bubbles in carbonated drinks can make GERD symptoms worse. “These can cause bloating and a feeling of fullness, causing more pressure and make reflux symptoms worse,” Cavagnaro says.

Best foods for acid reflux

1. Whole grains

Fiber-rich foods, including whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, oatmeal, and whole-grain bread, are important for gut health, Cavagnaro says. This could reduce your risk for acid reflux.

2. Green vegetables

Eating more vegetables can reduce your risk for GERD, research shows. Leafy greens, broccoli, zucchini, and green vegetables, are high in fiber, which benefits your gut health and reduces your risk for acid reflux, Cavagnaro says.

Related: How to Use Baking Soda for Acid Reflux

3. Root vegetables

Potatoes, sweet potatoes, and other root vegetables are a source of healthy carbs and fiber, which can lower your risk for acid reflux.

4. Ginger

Ginger has been shown to reduce reflux symptoms. Cavagnaro suggests sipping on ginger tea or munching on a ginger chew when your heartburn is acting up.

5. Melons, bananas, and other alkaline foods

Alkaline foods help neutralize the acid in the stomach, Cavagnaro says. So adding more bananas, cantaloupe, honeydew, cucumbers, and apples to your diet can reduce your acid reflux. Many of these foods have a high water content, too, which also neutralizes stomach acid.

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