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Acid reflux is when the stomach acid, also known as bile, reverse flows into the food pipe and causes burning sensations and irritation. This sensation is known as heartburn. Acid reflux is caused when the lower oesophagal sphincter that separates the stomach from the oesophagus does not functional effectively, allowing the stomach acid to flow back.
This can be caused due to factors such as obesity, smoking, incorrect exercise, consumption of harmful food items, and other abnormalities in the stomach.
Foods That Can Make Your Acid Reflux Worse
While there are several triggers that can cause acid reflux, eating habits can be a significant contributor in alleviating the condition. Foods that can cause acid reflux and which must be avoided include:
As it turns out, like with most things, alcohol does no good to help the condition of heartburn. Several research works and studies have shown that continuous consumption of alcohol can lead to several stomach-related problems such as the gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Alcohol can curtail the normal functioning of stomach and oesophagus, and cause damage to mucosae present in these organs. Avoiding alcohol or restricting it to 1 to 2 drinks a week is important to keep the organs healthy.
Another beverage that is not very friendly towards the problem of acid reflux is the caffeine laden coffee. Coffee increases acidity in the stomach and reduces pressure in the lower esophageal sphincter. This makes acids flow upwards easy, leading to increased heartburn and reflux. The same holds true for regular tea.
3. Citrus Fruits
Fruits such as orange, lemon, lime and grapefruit have high acidic content which can irritate the digestive tract and worsen the condition, especially if consumed on an empty stomach. While the stomach may handle the quantum of acid produced by these fruits, the esophagus might not be able to, causing discomfort and uneasiness. Fruits such as apple and bananas are better options in such a scenario.
Tomatoes are known for their health benefits and are widely consumed in raw format. However, when it comes to acid reflux, the high quantum of ascorbic acid, citric acid and malic acid in tomatoes does no good to the stomach and should be avoided. Since these acids can increase the rate of gastric acid production by the stomach, the acids can enter the oesophagus and cause severe heartburn.
This might be heartbreaking for all the chocolate lovers, but the truth is that cocoa can cause the cells in the oesophagal sphincter to relax, allowing the stomach acid to move back up easily. Chocolate contains theobromine and caffeine which contribute to the acid reflux problem. Also, the milk content increases the fat level in chocolate, making it a little more difficult to digest. This can trigger acid reflux as well.
6. Carbonated Drinks
In addition to all the other problems they create, carbonated beverages are no good in case of acid reflux either. Such drinks are high in acid content and can cause trouble by increasing the level of acid in the stomach, thereby triggering heartburn and reflux. Furthermore, the fizz bubbles expand inside the stomach, and this can also trigger strong reflux.
7. High-fat Food/Meat
Foods that are high in fat content need extra time to digest and sit in the stomach for longer hours, leaving the stomach expanded with pressure on the lower esophageal sphincter. Fried, fast food can also adversely affect the digestion process by weakening the bowel lining. It is best to avoid high-fat food if you suffer from heartburn problem.
Garlic can also cause heartburn and slow down the emptying process of the stomach, leading to acid reflux. Garlic also works to reduce pressure on the esophageal sphincter, thereby allowing the digestive acids to flow up easily. Although garlic has a lot of health benefits, it is best to consume it in very limited quantities if you suffer from heartburn. Onion can also cause similar symptoms and should be avoided.
This is one of the primary reasons for triggering heartburn. Digesting cheese can cause the stomach to release a high quantity of acids, making it easy for the acid contents to flow upwards. Cheese which is high in fat content such as cheddar, cream cheese and parmesan should be avoided. You can consume low-fat cheese like the ricotta or cottage cheese in limited quantities.
While peppermint appears to be harmless, it can relax the lower esophageal sphincter and aggravate the problem of acid reflux. Peppermint is highly effective when it comes to settling an upset stomach, but should be avoided completely if you suffer from heartburn or acid reflux problem.
Additionally, items like French fries, potato chips, buttermilk, high-fat cream, ice-cream, deep-fried onion rings, butter and whole-milk are foods to avoid acid reflux during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Additional Dietary Tips to Avoid Acid Reflux or Heartburn
In addition to avoiding the food items listed above, the following dietary tips can help you steer clear of your acid reflux/heartburn problems.
- Avoid overeating: Five to six small meals are better than two to three large, fully loaded meals. Don’t overburden your stomach by eating large portions of meals; instead, break your daily dietary schedule into several small meals at regular intervals. Not only will this solve your heartburn problem, but it will also bring with it a host of other health benefits as well.
- Eating before bedtime is a strict no-no: Lying down makes it easy for the contents in the stomach to rise up and flow into the esophagus. Give yourself at least two hours before lying down. This will allow the stomach to process the food and pass it down to the small intestine.
- Avoid eating spicy food if you suffer from heartburn. Avoid all kinds of fried and packaged food items.
- Fresh herbs and spices: Make use of fresh, organic herbs and spices while cooking your food. Avoid using dried or processed herbs as they are more likely to trigger acid reflux and induce heartburn.
- Consume green vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, cucumber, green beans, spinach and other leafy vegetables. These vegetables contain low fat and sugar and aid in digestion. Consume healthy fats such as walnuts, flaxseeds, olive oil, sunflower oil and avocados.
The problem of acid reflux or heartburn may not seem to be very severe in the initial stages, but it can cause a great amount of discomfort and long lasting digestion issues if not taken care of. While there is medication available to control this condition, continuous usage of antacids can create excess dependency and curtail the natural capacity of the body to digest food correctly.The problem of acid reflux can be overcome by making lifestyle changes and replacing junk, processed food with healthy counterparts, exercising correctly and regularly.
In case the problem persists, or the symptoms of heartburn do not subside over a period of time, it is best to consult a doctor and seek advice on how to manage the condition.