Top 5 Foods That Trigger Acid Reflux
Oh boy, this is a big one. If you have serious reflux issues then there’s a good chance you’ve spent a lot of time analyzing your diet and habits to see what’s helping and what’s hurting. We get to hear from a lot of people that are on the journey of healing and it always begins by answering this question: What foods trigger my acid reflux?? Unfortunately it’s not that easy to answer because our bodies are weird (wonderful, yes, but weird!) which means that one day you can eat jalapenos covered in hot sauce and feel just fine and then the next day a glass of water has your chest burning like Backdraft. (90’s movie reference). So what’s the deal?
The truth is that different foods trigger different people in different ways. And if that isn’t confusing enough, as I mentioned before, those triggers can change day by day, and sometimes hour by hour. Today cheese is great, tomorrow it’s certain death.
All this being said, here are a few foods that tend to trigger acid reflux and a little explanation about why.
This is a huuuuuge list of foods and it’s tempting to put the blame on the usual suspects- fast food, anything deep fried, fatty red meats. It’s true that all of these have serious potential to cause reflux but unfortunately it’s not just “bad fats”. For lots of people “good fats” like nuts, avocado, cheese and butter can cause the exact same reflux episode as a burger and fries. Why? A couple reasons. Fats tend to take a long time to digest, meaning they sit in the stomach for an extended period of time. The longer they sit, the more acid your stomach produces in an effort to break them down. Consequently, there's much more of a chance that the extra acid will reflux into your esophagus. The second reason? Fatty foods have a relaxing effect on your lower esophageal sphincter (LES). As the LES relaxes, acid is allowed to back flow into the esophagus causing all kinds of uncomfortable issues.
Ugh. This one hurts me to talk about. Sadly, the morning java that gives you the energy to get your day started can leave you suffering for hours. The highly acidic nature of coffee can contribute to inflammation of the stomach lining and esophagus and can result in painful heartburn. On top of this, caffeine is part of a group of compounds called methylxanthines. These are naturally-occurring substances that act on the central nervous system and cause the smooth muscle tissue in the LES to relax. As we know by now, a relaxed or weakened LES is the lynchpin of all reflux.
Well, at least tomatoes are easily avoidable, right? I mean, it’s not like a bunch of your favorite foods have tomatoes in them, huh? Only pizza and spaghetti and tikka masala and ketchup and… This one’s a bummer. Tomato based ingredients and foods cause a lot of reflux issues for a lot of people. Tomatoes are high in citric and malic acid which together can cause the stomach to produce too much gastric acid, upping the odds that you’re headed for a stay at Heartburn Hotel.
Ok, there are 2 different categories of “pepper” that are offenders here. Black pepper, which is in almost every savory food recipe, is a common reflux trigger. It contains a compound called piperine which may be what causes the issue. Piperine has a lot of nutritional benefits, however it can cause some inflammation of the stomach and esophagus. The second category here is “hot peppers” AKA, chili, cayenne, jalapeno etc. These guys contain a compound called capsaicin, which can slow down digestion. More time in the gut leads to an increased risk of reflux. Bye-bye, burritos. Sad face
OJ (very guilty)
Orange juice and most of its friends- grapefruit, lemon, lime- are often reported as reflux offenders. In a study of approximately 400 people with heartburn, 73% experienced heartburn after drinking orange or grapefruit juice. The science isn’t exactly clear on what’s at play here, but it seems like the high citric acid content might strip away the necessary mucus in your esophagus, leaving you in discomfort.
Alright, folks- I genuinely hope this kind of thing is helpful. We believe that reflux is healable and we want to keep providing some resources that help you on that journey to healing. We’d also love to learn from you, so shoot us an email about what triggers your reflux and what helps it! All the best, Dane