These are the foods you should avoid with acid reflux

foods to avoid with acid reflux
The foods to avoid with acid refluxTanja Ivanova - Getty Images

If you've ever had heartburn, you'll know exactly what we're talking about when we say acid reflux can be both an uncomfortable and disruptive challenge to your day-to-day life. We get it – the struggle is real. But the good news is your diet can be a game-changer when it comes to minimising your symptoms and reducing any digestive disasters (since
acid reflux is often caused and triggered by certain foods and drinks). Wondering which foods to avoid with acid reflux? Keep reading to find out...

So, what exactly is acid reflux?

‘Acid reflux is the sensation we experience when acid escapes up from our stomach into our oesophagus and sometimes into our mouth,’ explains Sophie Medlin, director and specialist dietician at City Dieticians. And the symptoms can be pretty unpleasant. ‘It can feel like a burning sensation in your chest, a horrible taste in your mouth and it can sometimes cause problems with swallowing,’ Medlin adds.

What causes acid reflux?

Just like with most digestive issues, there are plenty of factors that contribute to acid reflux – for example, people who smoke, are overweight or are pregnant are more likely to experience it, according to the NHS. Factors such as stress and anxiety, an increase in some types of hormones, such as progesterone and oestrogen, and some types of medicine, including anti-inflammatory painkillers like medication, can also lead to heartburn symptoms.

Some people deal with acid reflux on a regular basis, whereas others will only experience it occasionally. ‘You might notice it after a larger, rich meal or after drinking too much alcohol,’ Medlin says. If your symptoms are sporadic, it's probably not something you need to worry about, aside from it being an annoyance.

Should I be concerned about acid reflux?

But there are more serious implications of acid reflux, particularly if you're experiencing it frequently. Dr Aruchuna Ruban is a consultant gastroenterologist at OneWellbeck and he says that if you're dealing with acid reflux regularly, it's important to speak to a doctor. ‘If you get chronic acid reflux, it can be a precursor to oesophagal cancer. This is because when you get lots of acid coming up the food pipe, it can change the lining of the food pipe,’ Dr Ruban explains. ‘There's a condition called Barrett's oesophagus, which is where stomach cells line the oesophagus because it becomes inflamed.’

How can you get rid of acid reflux?

If you've ruled out serious conditions with a doctor but you're still experiencing occasional acid reflux, it might be being caused or triggered by certain foods. Both experts agree that adjusting your diet is one of the best ways to reduce your symptoms, so we asked Medlin and Dr Ruban to share the foods that people who deal with acid reflux should avoid, which we've listed below.

As well as thinking about what you're eating, it's also important to think about the way you're eating. ‘Avoiding eating on the go is helpful and making sure you don’t lay down immediately after eating is important,’ Medlin says. Dr Ruban adds that eating small meals can help: ‘Eat small amounts regularly rather than taking on big loads that will sit in your stomach,’ he says.

14 foods to avoid with acid reflux

foods to avoid with acid reflux
Photo by Allie Smith on Unsplash

1. Coffee

If you're feeling tired after a bad night's sleep – maybe one triggered by digestive issues – your first instinct might be to reach for a cup of coffee. But Medlin advises against this. ‘Black coffee in particular on an empty stomach will generate more acid and trigger bowel contractions, making reflux more likely,’ she says.

foods to avoid with acid reflux
Tetra Images

2. Fizzy drinks

Growing up, maybe you were offered a fizzy drink to help settle your tummy, but according to Medlin, they'll only worsen the symptoms of acid reflux. ‘Carbonic acid that is in fizzy drinks like coke and even sparkling water can cause acid,’ Dr Ruban says.

foods to avoid with acid reflux
Yulia Naumenko

3. Vinegar

Vinegar is naturally acidic, so it makes sense that it can trigger heartburn symptoms. Dr Ruban recommends avoiding vinegar or foods that contain vinegar to avoid triggering symptoms.

foods to avoid with acid reflux
Moldova/Dan Gutu

4. Lemon

Lemons might have lots of health benefits, containing lots of beneficial vitamins and minerals. But it's best to avoid them if you're dealing with acid reflux. ‘Citrus fruit can lower the pH of the stomach causing more acid to form,’ Medlin explains.

foods to avoid with acid reflux

5. Fried chicken

Fatty, processed foods can irritate your stomach and increase the production of stomach acid, leading to heartburn symptoms. ‘Avoid takeaways and foods such as fried chicken and burgers,’ Dr Ruban recommends.

foods to avoid with acid reflux
Robert Daly - Getty Images

6. Garlic

Dr Ruban says that allium vegetables, such as garlic can worsen acid reflux symptoms. The active ingredient in garlic known as allicin increases acidity in the stomach, which could lead to acid reflux.

foods to avoid with acid reflux
Thu Thai Thanh / EyeEm - Getty Images

7. Onions

Onions are another vegetable Dr Ruban recommends avoiding for people with acid reflux, particularly raw onions. It's not clear why onions trigger acid reflux symptoms, but in a study from the 1990s people with heartburn ate a plain hamburger one day, followed by the same burger with onions on the following day and the second burger significantly worsened their heartburn, so try to avoid the popular root vegetable if you can.

foods to avoid with acid reflux
Richard Newstead

8. Oranges

We all know just how good oranges are for keeping us healthy, providing vitamin C – which can improve the immune system and stop us from getting sick. But they might not be the best choice for one of your five a day if you deal with heartburn. ‘Citrus fruits are always a slight risk factor for people with heartburn,’ Dr Ruban says.

foods to avoid with acid reflux

9. Tomatoes

Just like garlic and onions, tomatoes are another food that could trigger acid reflux symptoms, according to Dr Ruban. Tomatoes are naturally acidic foods, which means they can relax the oesophagal sphincter (the muscle separating the stomach from the oesophagus), increasing the flow of acid between the two.

foods to avoid with acid reflux
Joan Ransley - Getty Images

10. Curry

When you're dealing with acid reflux, it's best to avoid foods that will upset your digestive system and spicy food like curry is a prime example of this. ‘Spicy food can irritate the lining of the oesophagus further, causing worsening symptoms,’ Medlin says.

foods to avoid with acid reflux

11. Cheese

Fatty foods like cheese are another food that might trigger acid reflux. ‘Higher fat foods can cause a film of oil to form at the top of the stomach and increase the stomach acid production making reflux more likely,’ Medlin explains. Cheese is an example of a food that's generally high in saturated fat, and could create this response in the body.

foods to avoid with acid reflux
Jarana Creatives - Getty Images

12. Biscuits

We know you don't want to hear this, but your midday chocolate biscuit could actually be triggering your acid reflux symptoms. Another example of a high-fat food, Medlin says that processed biscuits are something she tells her clients who deal with heartburn to avoid.

foods to avoid with acid reflux
Steve Cicero - Getty Images

13. Pork

‘Processed meats like pork and bacon can trigger acid reflux because of their high-fat content,’ Dr Ruban says.

foods to avoid with acid reflux
Vesna Jovanovic / EyeEm - Getty Images

14. Alcohol

This isn't strictly a food, but both Medlin and Dr Ruban stress that alcohol is one of the biggest triggers of acid reflux, so it's probably not the best idea to have a drink with your meal if you're worried about heartburn. ‘White wine in particular can cause increased stomach acid and make stomach ulcers and gastritis more likely,’ Medlin says.

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