Either cease or fuel the burn with these food items!
For those who are not familiar with what acid reflux is and its wrath that can wreak havoc on your body, here is a rundown of what this bothersome, digestion-related disorder entails.
A big symptom of acid reflux is a burning sensation, otherwise referred to as heartburn, which occurs when acid creeps back up the esophagus from the stomach. That’s why people grasp at their chest—the pain can literally take their breath away.
To help you minimize those uncomfortable acid reflux symptoms, we’ve compiled a list of foods that either cause, alleviate, and/or prevent acid reflux from brewing. We also spoke with registered dietitians Cynthia Sass and Natalie Rizzo, MS, RD, and author of The No-Brainer Nutrition Guide For Every Runner. We’ll start with the worst foods for acid reflux, and then keep reading to find out the best foods that will help to keep your acid reflux at bay.
FIRST, THE WORST
Regardless of whether you are consuming healthy fats or, well, not-so-healthy fats, you put yourself at risk for experiencing some digestive discomfort. Fried and fatty foods cause the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) to relax and, ultimately, not carry out its duties properly. “Greasy and fatty foods can cause the lower esophageal sphincter to not tighten properly, which leads to stomach acid traveling back up the esophagus,” says Rizzo.
The LES is a bundle of muscles that separates the esophagus from the stomach. More specifically, it is supposed to seal the bottom of the esophagus in order to stop food from traveling back up after it deposits in your stomach. Foods like French fries, fried chicken, and funnel cake actually immobilize your LES. “Fried foods also take a long time to digest, so they sit in the stomach for a long time and the reflux symptoms last for a while,” she says.
Eating high to full-fat dairy products can help you feel fuller, longer, but unfortunately, those who suffer from acid reflux struggle to reap the benefits of these items without feeling like their esophagus is eroding. Again, it has to do with the high-fat content. There are milk alternatives to cow’s milk that have non-existent levels of lactose (the sugar in dairy that can cause gas, bloating, and congestion). Milk with a lower content of lactose may also place less pressure on that tender LES. It’s also likely that the reflux is caused by an intolerance or sensitivity to dairy. “Reflux can be a symptom of a food sensitivity, which is a non-allergic immune response that triggers inflammation,” says Sass. “For many, nixing dairy can eliminate reflux.”
Even heart-healthy dark chocolate causes the acid to flood back upstream. The reason? Methylxanthines. These are naturally occurring substances that act on the central nervous system and cause the smooth muscle tissue in the LES to relax. Similarly to fatty and fried foods, cacao is just as capable of weakening the LES. The two types of methylxanthines in chocolate are caffeine and theobromine, i.e. stimulants that enable us to enjoy the “feel good” vibes you get when you nibble on a square or two.
What’s that you say? You’re already opening your second can of diet soda? Just say no. Soda and other carbonated drinks stir up some serious esophageal distress. The bubbles in carbonation expand inside the stomach, causing a lot of extra pressure to reside just beneath your fragile LES muscles. “In addition to triggering reflux, carbonated drinks can cause bloating and burping,” says Sass. “Trading your bubbly drink for flat water infused with something like cucumber, ginger, or lemon can help your overall digestive system feel and function better.”