10 Foods That Can Trigger Acid Reflux Symptoms
Acid reflux (or possibly GERD, if it’s happening regularly) is what happens when your stomach contents back up into your esophagus. If you suffer from acid reflux, you know it’s a thoroughly unpleasant experience. You can prevent symptoms, though, by avoiding foods and drinks that may trigger heartburn. For example:
Alcohol is kind of a double whammy when it comes to heartburn triggers: It relaxes your lower esophageal sphincter (LES), which allows stomach contents back into your esophagus, and it increases the production of stomach acid.
But that’s not all! Alcohol also lowers your inhibitions and can lead to poor decisions. Midnight Taco Bell run, anyone?
Like alcohol, onions relax your LES. They also are chock-full of fermentable fiber, which makes you burp. Burping is both a symptom and a trigger of acid reflux: Burping can be caused by the excess swallowing that comes from heartburn, and the physical act of burping can aggravate certain acid reflux symptoms.
Rule #1 for avoiding acid reflux symptoms: Don’t irritate your esophagus. Capsaicin (the chemical compound that makes certain peppers spicy) further inflames an already inflamed esophagus. Capsaicin may also slow your digestion rate and cause food to hang out longer than it normally would in your stomach, triggering heartburn symptoms.
Fatty Meats and Other Fatty Foods
Fat is yet another thing that causes your LES to relax. High-fat foods stimulate the release of a hormone called cholecystokinin, which is basically Ambien to your LES. This hormone also encourages food to stay in your stomach longer to promote better digestion, which can cause heartburn.
Chocolate relaxes your LES in three ways:
1. It’s often high in fat (see #4).
2. Cocoa boosts serotonin levels, which relaxes the LES.
3. It has theobromine and caffeine, two more things that may relax the LES.
Though the link between coffee and acid reflux is unclear, many people say that it aggravates their symptoms. Some experts argue that caffeine is the culprit, but others say other compounds in coffee are to blame.
Nevertheless, it’s best to avoid coffee if you’ve found it causes acid reflux symptoms.
You’ve likely heard that carbonation can help certain digestive problems. While it sometimes can (burping releases gas), that’s not the case with acid reflux. Here’s why: The bubbles expand inside the stomach, creating increased pressure. This pressure can make some symptoms worse.
Citrus fruits (like oranges, lemons, and grapefruits) and citrus juices can irritate an inflamed esophagus. Strangely, though, some experts recommend using lemon water as a heartburn treatment because of its alkalizing effects. Whether or not that’s a help or a hindrance is up for debate.
Like citrus fruits, tomatoes are extremely acidic and may worsen acid reflux symptoms by causing some of that acid to back up into the esophagus. Cooked tomatoes are slightly less acidic, but can still be a trigger for many people.
Peppermint and spearmint teas are recommended for certain digestive issues (like nausea and gas), but many people find that they make their acid reflux symptoms worse by irritating an already inflamed esophagus.