There is some evidence that chocolate may worsen the symptoms of acid reflux, but this is often dose dependant. For most individuals, a small amount of chocolate is usually tolerated.
This can both increase stomach acid production, and relax the LOS, causing or worsening acid reflux.
Evidence suggests that coffee can temporarily relax the LOS, and worsen symptoms of acid reflux and heartburn.
9. Carbonated drinks
Too many fizzy drinks can cause gas build up in the stomach and gastric distension (bloating), and if your stomach is distended, there is increased pressure on the LOS, promoting reflux.
It’s not just what but *how* you eat
Accredited Practising Dietitian & Nutritionist Caroline Trickey regularly sees clients in her clinic suffering from acid reflux, and has found that the biggest contributor to reflux is actually how people eat. “Most people eat quickly, don’t chew their food properly and tend to eat while busily doing other things, so they are not relaxed when they eat,” explains Caroline. “Yet digestion works best when the body is relaxed.”
“Over-eating is also a very big issue when it comes to reflux,” she adds. “Especially when dining out as portion sizes are usually way too big. People forget that their stomach is only the size of their clenched fist. However, many of us try to fit way more food than that in there!”
Before eliminating foods, Caroline advises regular sufferers of reflux to have a look at how they eat. “Sit down to eat and take a few breaths before you start to help your body relax. Eat slowly and chew your food well. This will also give you a chance to realise when you are full and help reduce the chances of over-eating. This really is the first place to start. And this is still good advice to follow whilst trying to cut out certain foods too.”
The low FODMAP diet is a temporary elimination diet that avoids foods that some people don’t digest properly. FODMAPs include a range of foods like certain fruits (apples, pears), vegetables (leeks, onions, garlic), dairy products and legumes. These foods can ferment in your small intestine and cause a build-up of gas, which appears to contribute to acid reflux in some susceptible individuals.
“This is the best dietary approach I have used with clients, when all other issues have been ruled out,” says Caroline. “It has been incredibly beneficial to many people who suffer from very severe forms of reflux”. Here is just one case study:
“I had a 23-year-old client who had suffered from severe colic as a child and ongoing reflux ever since. His intake was minimal as a result, he was severely underweight and struggling to keep down a job. He followed the low FODMAP diet which resolved almost all of his symptoms, then went through the reintroduction process to find out which high FODMAP foods he was responding to. His worst one was onion, but he had mild symptoms with a few other high FODMAP foods. He now just avoids those foods, and this has changed his life!”
A low FODMAP diet should always be trialled under the guidance of a dietitian or other health professional who is familiar with this dietary approach.
Other lifestyle approaches for acid reflux
- The following lifestyle tips are also recommended for those suffering with acid reflux
- Avoid eating too close to bedtime, and don’t lie down straight after
- Take steps to lose weight if overweight or obese
- Stop smoking
- If you notice symptoms after taking medications or supplements, speak with your doctor
- Wear loose fitting clothing and avoid anything tight around your middle, which can put pressure on your stomach
- Do regular, moderate exercise.