7 Foods that May be Triggering Your Acid Reflux

Those dealing with acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) know it has the tendency to interrupt all aspects of your life, from enjoying breakfast to getting a good night’s sleep. Luckily, finding relief from symptoms such as heartburn and bloating might be possible by making some small changes to your diet.

According to Notch Medical Advisor Dr. Chris Meletis, N.D., it’s best to start by avoiding foods that cause dysfunction in your lower esophageal sphincter (LES).

“Your LES is designed to keep acid in your stomach—not your throat or esophagus,” he says. “High-fat foods, spicy foods, chocolate and coffee are all well-known triggers.”

Below is a list of a few foods to avoid (and some possible alternatives) if you’re dealing with acid reflux/GERD:

  • Acidic fruits.
    Because they’re simply adding to the acid content of your stomach, acidic fruits are best to be consumed in moderation. In addition to the more obvious citrus fruits like grapefruit and pineapple, this also includes some less predictable culprits, such as tomatoes. (Yes, tomato is a fruit. We’re sorry.)
  • Mint.
    Mint, peppermint and spearmint are major heartburn triggers because they relax the LES, Meletis says, allowing stomach acids to flow back into the esophagus. So it might be worth skipping over that pack of gum or after-dinner mint.
  • Fried foods.
    Falling in the “high-fat” category, fried foods such as bacon, French fries and onion rings are all likely contributors to your acid reflux symptoms. Because high-fat foods remain in your stomach longer it produces more acid than usual, which can also irritate your digestive tract.
  • Alcohol.
    Because alcohol encourages stomach acid production and can damage the esophageal lining, it’s generally not recommended for those with acid reflux or GERD. This is especially true for alcohol drinks with added sugar or a citrus component.
  • Coffee.
    This one hits us the hardest, as it’s difficult to imagine mornings without that fragrant cup of Joe. However, the acidic nature of this magic bean is often a major trigger for heartburn and the caffeine content relaxes the LES, making it worth reconsidering your morning routine.
  • Spicy foods.
    We love Sriracha as much as the next person...but that doesn’t always mean it’s great for your health. If you deal with acid reflux or GERD-related symptoms, consider cutting back on hot sauce and potent spices like cayenne, chili powder and cinnamon.

But don’t fret just yet. Just as there are foods that may be contributing to your reflux, there are also foods that can help ease your symptoms. This includes:

  • Whole grains.
    Brown rice, oats and other whole grains are all rich in fiber, which plays a key role in absorbing excess stomach acid. As long as they’re consumed in moderation (overeating and acid reflux go hand-in-hand), they may help relieve some of your symptoms.
  • Most vegetables.
    We say “most” simply because there are some vegetables – like onions and tomatoes – that can trigger acid reflux symptoms. However, veggies such as cauliflower, broccoli, cucumbers, spinach and other leafy greens are all low in fat and sugar, which is helpful for reducing stomach acid.
  • Lean meats and proteins.
    Chicken, fish and other seafood are all low in fat while still providing your body with the protein it needs to thrive. Try them baked, broiled or grilled, without a lot of excess oils or spices. Egg whites and tofu are a couple of meat-free options to consider as well.

Unless you have a serious allergy, there’s often little reason to cut foods completely. Consider talking to your doctor about how to incorporate some of your favorite foods back into your diet without triggering your acid reflux/GERD symptoms.

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