It’s not just what you eat, but how you eat it

Do you often get a burning sensation in your throat or stomach after you eat? Well, it’s called acid reflux – a condition you could be making worse without even knowing it.

Acid reflux occurs when stomach acid leaks up, the wrong direction, from the stomach into the oesophagus. Symptoms of acid reflux range from heartburn to difficulty swallowing – or there can be no symptoms at all. It can be painful, uncomfortable and inconvenient to the sufferer.

What are the causes?

When you swallow food, it travels down the oesophagus, and passes through a ring of muscle called the lower oesophageal sphincter (LOS), into the stomach. The job of the LOS is to control what gets in to the stomach, and to prevent the stomach contents from getting back out again. However, the LOS is a muscle, and like other muscles, its tone can vary. Acid reflux occurs when the LOS becomes abnormally relaxed, and allows the backward flow of the stomach contents back into the oesophagus.

A number of factors can affect the tone and functioning of the LOS – from being overweight to smoking or taking medication. Certain foods and drinks can also exacerbate aid reflux, although there is still a fair bit of controversy in the medical community over which foods can cause or worsen reflux symptoms – largely because this seems to vary significantly between individuals.

Woman with hands on throat

The following foods have all been linked with acid reflux, but further research is needed. However, that’s not to say sufferers won’t find benefits from reducing or avoiding some, or all, of these foods.

1. High fat foods

Fat slows down the emptying of the stomach, so there is more opportunity for a full, distended stomach, which increases pressure on the LOS. This may boost your risk of reflux symptoms. Common high fat offenders include deep fried foods like fish and chips, as well as fatty cuts of meat, in particular pork and lamb.

2. Spicy foods

Whilst some individuals find that spice aggravates their symptoms, the evidence for this is mixed. Individuals should be mindful of their own spice tolerance.

3. Citrus

Such as a glass of orange juice, or lots of lemon juice squeezed over food. While citrus juice probably doesn’t cause acid reflux, some individuals find that it can make their heartburn and other symptoms temporarily worse.

4. Garlic and onions

Onions can be one of the worst offenders for individuals suffering from severe reflux. Garlic can too, but not as commonly. However, the combination of onion and garlic together can often be problematic.

5. Peppermint

Whilst an after-dinner mint tea is often recommended as a digestive remedy, for those suffering from acid reflux, this could actually worsen symptoms. Why? Because peppermint relaxes the LOS, and allows stomach acid to flow back up into the oesophagus.

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