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Acid Reflux: Foods to Avoid

Acid Reflux: Foods to Avoid

Acid reflux implies the flow of acidic contents of the stomach into the esophagus (food pipe), and even the throat and mouth. This leads to heartburn and GERD. The current article provides a list of foods to be avoided in order to prevent or control this condition.
Rita Putatunda
Last Updated: Apr 20, 2018
Should Citrus Fruits be Avoided?
It is a common misconception that hyperacidity is the only reason behind acid reflux, and that acidic foods must always be avoided. In fact, many cases involving acid reflux are caused by a decreased production of gastric acid (hypoacidity). Hence, etiology is the deciding factor on whether citrus fruits should be avoided or not.
Acid reflux, is a condition wherein the acidic gastric juices flow from the stomach into the esophagus, which is not equipped to deal with acidic conditions. As a result one experiences heartburn, and a sour taste of the regurgitated acidic content.

The backward flow of gastric juices is normally inhibited by a circular muscle called lower esophageal sphincter (LES), present at the connecting point between esophagus and stomach. This structure functions like a one-way valve, and allows the food bolus to enter the stomach but restricts the flow of gastric contents into the esophagus.

Malfunction of LES due to hyperacidity, hypoacidity, adverse effects of medicines, etc., results in frequent relaxation of this muscle, which leads to acid reflux. This condition may progress to its severe state called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Frequent or continuous exposure to such acidic content leads to irritation of the esophageal tissue, and may also lead to erosive esophagitis (inflammation of the esophagus).
Symptoms of Acid Reflux

Heartburn, a burning sensation in the chest, is the most common symptom associated with acid reflux. Other occasional symptoms experienced include:
♦ Burning sensation in throat
♦ Sour taste in mouth
♦ Abdominal discomfort
♦ Difficulty and pain while breathing
♦ Difficulty and pain while swallowing (dysphagia)
♦ Insomnia

Frequent episodes involving any of these symptoms may indicate the onset of GERD, and demand professional medical advice.
Foods to Avoid

Simple dietary changes can help to reduce the symptoms and discomfort experienced due to acid reflux. Foods to avoid or alleviate these symptoms mainly include those that are easy to digest and low in fat content. On the contrary, foods that can aggravate or induce acid reflux include fried foods, high-fat dairy products, desserts, spicy foods, alcoholic beverages, etc.

Given below is a list of foods that must be avoided, or consumed in moderation, while experiencing acid reflux:

♦ Salted chips
♦ French fries
♦ Donuts
♦ Chocolates
♦ Cheese
♦ Butter cookies
♦ Brownies
♦ Tabasco sauce
♦ Spearmint
♦ Chillies
♦ Pepper
♦ Garlic
♦ Onions
♦ Tomatoes
♦ Ground beef
♦ Deep-fried meat
♦ Processed sausages
♦ Marbled sirloin
♦ Wine
♦ Liquor
♦ Tea
♦ Coffee
♦ Milkshakes
♦ Carbonated drinks

Fried foods and high-fat food items are difficult to digest, and are retained in the stomach for a longer time. This increases the pressure within the stomach, which induces acid reflux. Such food items and alcoholic beverages weaken/damage the LES leading to a failure in restricting gastric acids to the stomach. Spicy foods irritate the esophageal lining, thereby increasing the burning sensation experienced in the throat and chest. They may not induce acid reflux, but may aggravate the symptoms, and are best avoided.
Citrus Fruits and Acid Reflux
Interestingly, two starkly opposite conditions - hyperacidity (acid dyspepsia) and hypoacidity - can lead to acid reflux. Hence, we commonly come across complaints regarding acid reflux getting worse, in spite of acid suppression treatment and non-indulgence in acidic foods.

Decreased acid production reduces the efficiency of digestion, where the chyme is retained in the stomach for a longer period. This increases the pressure on the LES, and the gastric contents rise up in the esophagus causing heartburn. An acid suppression treatment will further aggravate the problem, and do more harm than good.

Therefore, individuals with hyperacidity are advised to avoid lime, lemon, oranges, vinegar, and similar food items with a high acidic content. In the opposing condition, those with hypoacidity are advised to increase the intake of such foods, so as to aid digestion and alleviate acid reflux.

Tips for Hyperacidic Patients

  • Avoid foods from the list of foods that aggravate acid reflux (or eat in moderation), while drastically controlling portion intake.
  • Juice varieties of acidic food should also be avoided.
  • Spicy food should be steered clear of until the condition subsides, where self-control should be exercised thereafter.
  • Foods that cause flatulence, like aerated drinks and its kind, should be slowly eliminated from your diet.
  • Maintain a strict sleep schedule of at least 7-8 hours a night.
  • Food portions should be small and eaten at different times of the day, and not all at once as part of a large meal.
  • Cancel out the consumption of alcohol, and limit the number of cigarettes you smoke in a day.
  • Try to incorporate a healthy lifestyle by practicing meditation, signing up for a yoga class, or indulging in light but strenuous exercise.
  • Do not starve yourself; even fasting shouldn't be part of your dietary routine, especially with this condition.

Tips for Hypoacidic Patients

  • Plant sources that can help with hypoacidity are: Cinnamon, wild carrot seeds, ginger, cayenne, cardamom, Angelica archangelica, and orange peel.
  • Include carminatives as part of your diet; these include caraway, peppermint (avoid if you have a case of stomach lining inflammation, or ulcers), holy basil, catnip, and fennel.
  • Consult your doctor for these varied diet suggestions that can help alleviate hypoacidicity, as well as inquire about four treatment options that could help - prebiotics, probiotics, supplements, and tintures.
  • Exercise is important, where it must qualify as rigorous and physically taxing.
  • Indulge in spa rituals, trips to a relaxing destination, or a calming activity, since stress is a major factor of acidic ailments.
  • Don't allow friends or family to tempt you with food choices that aren't agreeable for your condition. Limit your intake of foods that could mess with your system's ability to produce acid, and consult your doctor on which foods can be eaten regularly, and which ones must be avoided or eaten in moderation.

It is essential to understand the exact cause behind heartburn and abdominal discomfort. This can be determined by keeping track of which foods you consume, and observing their effects over time. In severe cases, a professional consultation is the ideal way of dealing with this, instead of experimenting with your health.
Tips to Deal with Acid Reflux in General

✔ 'Food triggers' for acid reflux may vary from one individual to another. The best way to figure out your list of 'foods to avoid' is to maintain a food diary, and jot down the foods that caused digestive problems.
✔ Sleep on your back, and ensure that the head is slightly elevated.
✖ Refrain from going to bed immediately after dinner. Take a stroll, read a favorite book or engross yourself in a hobby.

Simple lifestyle changes like regular exercise, consumption of well-balanced meals, and a cautious attempt to avoid problematic foods is the key to deal with acid reflux, as well as the physical and mental discomfort associated.

Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only, and does not attempt to replace the advice offered by an expert on the subject.