Acid reflux is a complex and painful health problem with multiple causes, including the type of foods you consume. The symptoms of acid reflux can be uncomfortable for the sufferer, causing cramps, a sore throat, burning sensations and even sharp chest pains.

Fortunately, once you are aware of which foods trigger acid reflux, you can avoid this problem in the future.

Here are the top seven acidic foods that you may want to avoid if you suffer from acid reflux. This simple and easy to follow list contains foods that research has proven to cause the most adverse reactions; therefore, you should avoid them at all costs.

1. Hot and Spicy Foods Increase Acid Production

Hot and Spicy FoodsThese foods top our list because they commonly result in people feeling indigestion after consumption. Hot and spicy foods include curries, many cultural dishes and sauces.

The key ingredients that cause the reaction of acid reflux are fresh or powdered chilies, curry powder, black pepper and onions, which are often present in spicy food dishes.

Spicy food triggers the reaction of acid reflux, because it has a tendency to irritate the lining of the esophagus on its journey down to your stomach. This can trigger a dry cough and further discomfort, ultimately resulting in heartburn.

These foods also irritate the stomach and cause an increase in the production of stomach acid. Increase in stomach acid production causes an increase in heartburn frequency as well.

In order to minimize irritation for the esophagus and decrease acid production, here are a number of alternatives to spicy foods:

  • Choose Milder Options. Opt for dishes with a mild spice rating, rather than an intense chili seasoning.
  • Try Adding Yogurt. Enjoy your meals with a spoonful of fresh yogurt or soy yogurt. Soy yogurt works particularly well in terms of reducing any inflammation to soothe your stomach and minimize any discomfort.
  • Use Fresh Herbs, Garlic and Ginger Instead of Onions. This will reduce the number of irritating ingredients in the dish.
  • Watch Out For Hot Peppers. Avoid any dishes with fresh chili peppers, or other hot peppers like jalapenos in them.
  • Monitor Closely. Avoid processed and ready meals with spices already added to them

When you’re eating out or planning a meal at home, always consider alternative ways to add flavor to your dishes rather than going straight for the chili or curry powder. As these ingredients are proven to irritate the esophagus, avoiding them will reduce any discomfort that you’ll experience when trying to enjoy a meal.

2. High Fat Foods Stay in Stomach Longer and Cause Heartburn

High fat foods, sHigh Fat Foodsuch as deep fried chips, battered chicken nuggets and hamburgers take a longer time to digest and breakdown when compared to foods, such as fresh fruits, lean meats and veggies.

This means that they spend longer in the stomach and increase the likelihood of gastric acid rising through the esophagus, resulting in the symptoms of acid reflux.

Ingredients like animal fats, lard, oil, batter and any lipid-based foods have the potential to cause an acid reflux reaction, making high fat foods a strong contender for the food group that results in the most digestive discomfort.

Another problem that high fat foods cause is fast weight gain. Being overweight can further complicate acid reflux problems.

To minimize the symptoms of acid reflux and avoid those high fat foods, try the following steps:

  • Cook With Light, Vegetable Oils Such as Virgin Olive Oil. These oils don’t clog up the body and are broken down easier than animal fats.
  • Choose Fresh Over Fried. Reduce your fat intake and increase your fiber intake, ensuring that your digestive system is clean and clear, rather than clogged up.
  • Reduce Your Take-out Days. If you go to the take-away every week, choose to go once a month and treat yourself to a healthier alternative, such as a non-chili Thai dish instead. This will lighten up your diet.
  • Get Rid of the Junk Food. If your cupboards are fully of high fat snack foods, like crisps and chocolates, switch them out for healthier alternatives such as fresh fruit, rice crackers, cereal bars and nuts
  • If You Indulge in Fatty Foods, Don’t Lie Down After Eating. This can cause the upwards movement of gastric acid through the esophagus.
  • Try Gentle Physical Activity After Eating to Stimulate Digestion. Washing the dishes or taking a gentle stroll are great ways to ensure that you don’t fall prey to acid reflux after eating a meal.

Be pro-active in the planning of your meals and choose to cook from home, rather than eating out all the time. By avoiding and reducing your intake of high fat foods, you can ensure your body isn’t harboring any slow digesting foods. You’ll feel lighter, as well as more comfortable during and after a meal.

3. Onions Increase Stomach Pressure and Open LES

onionsCommonly used in many different dishes, onions can cause more discomfort than just making you cry as you cut them.Onions are strongly linked to acid reflux. They cause this issue by strengthening the low pH of gastric acid, making belching and heartburn a more likely occurrence.

Onions also increases the stomach pressure that opens up lower esophageal sphincter (LES). LES snaps shut in order to separate the esophagus and the stomach. This can cause acid reflux and esophageal irritation.

Even cooking onions will have little effect on lowering their level of acidity. Therefore you should avoid them if you have acid reflux issues.

The following alternatives can be implemented instead:

  • Avoid using whole onions when cooking.
  • Use spring onions or shallots in small volumes. Assess whether they cause less of an irritation and heartburn sensation for you.
  • Avoid eating raw onions in salads and other dishes.

Unfortunately, we use onions in such a wide range of dishes, so it can be hard to avoid them. Cook more of your own meals and find alternatives, such as shallots or ginger, to add flavor into your food without stimulating a negative esophageal response.

4. Chocolate Increases Stomach Acids

Loved by many, unfortunately chocolate is considered to be another cause of acid reflux.

The cocoa in chocolate results in the release of serotonin and this causes the lower esophageal sphincter to relax. This reaction is linked to the rising of gastric acids; thus, the feelings of heartburn.

Chocolate also has a high fat content. That means it takes longer to digest and increases stomach acids, too.

If you consume it in high amounts, chocolate can lead to weight gain, which can add pressure to the esophagus, further increasing the likelihood of experiencing an acid reflux reaction.

To minimize the negative effects that chocolate can have on the body, try the following steps:

  • chocolateAvoid Eating Chocolate in Large Amounts. You should not eat more than 10 to 20 grams of chocolate every day.
  • Avoid Consuming Products With Lots of Chocolate. This includes brownies, cookies, milkshakes and cakes.
  • Opt for Dark Chocolate to Cure Your Cravings.Dark chocolate with 70 percent or more cacao contains antioxidants and less refined milk sugars, which are easier on your digestive system.

Chocolate is more likely to cause acid reflux when you consume it in large amounts. As with all foods, enjoy it in moderation and where possible, opt for the dark chocolate instead.

5. Citrus Fruits Increase Stomach Acids

An obvious choice due to their high acidity, citrus fruits, such as lemons can irritate the esophagus by causing the pH of gastric acid to stay lower and stronger for a longer period of time.

The citric acid in citrus fruits is the culprit for acid reflux symptoms; however all you have to do is choose fruits with a higher pH that don’t cause such an adverse reaction.

Here’s what to do if citrus fruits are aggravating your acid reflux:

  • Avoid Eating Fresh Citrus Fruits. This includes lemons, pineapple, oranges and grapefruit.
  • Eat More Alkaline Fruits. This includes bananas, limes and apples.
  • Strike a Balance. If you enjoy citrus fruits, mix them into a smoothie with other fruits which will neutralize the pH, such as apples, bananas, limes or grapes.
  • Take it Easy. Don’t engage in excessive physical activities directly after consuming something containing a high amount of acids. This will churn up your gastric juices and encourage acid reflux by pushing the gastric acid upwards and out of the stomach.
  • Swap It. If you use lemon juice in your cooking, then swap it out for lime. The alkaline nature of lime will neutralize and weaken stomach acids, rather than making them more potent. This means that if your meal contains other ingredients that could potentially cause an acid reflux reaction, the reaction will not be as strong.

Swapping out citrus fruits for other fruits is an easy option for this group of foods. Consuming such a strong concentration of acid will never be soothing for your stomach and is best avoided.

6. Alcohol Aggravates Heartburn Symptoms

Alcohol afAlcoholfects your gut health badly due to two main reasons:

  • Alcohol is high in a chemical called acetaldehyde. Acetaldehyde directly damages the lining of your stomach and esophagus, making them extra sensitive to the effects of reflux.
  • In addition, alcohol also causes the lower esophageal sphincter to relax more than usual. This way the stomach acids get more chances to flow back and irritate the esophagus.

Here is how you can drink without complicating your acid reflux:

  • Limit Yourself. Aim to drink no more than one to two mixed drinks, bottles of beer, or glasses of wine in one day.
  • Make Better Choices. Choose red wine instead of white wine, as it has low acetaldehyde levels.
  • Mix it Up. It’s a good option to go for a mixture of different drinks, as it’ll blunt the negative effects of alcohol on the gut. This means to alternate alcoholic drinks with ice water or non-caloric seltzer water.
  • Stay Hydrated. Drinking two to three glasses of water after an alcoholic beverage will dilute the drink.

If your heartburn is complicated, it’s advisable to give up alcoholic beverages altogether.

7. Here’s the Most Common Trigger of All

Carbonated beverages are perhaps the most important; most widely consumed and still undermined food triggers of acid reflux.

These beverages are acidic in nature, rich in caffeine and high in sugar, so they cause an increase in the acidic product in the stomach like nothing else.

Researchers at the University of Texas studied 17 different beverages including carbonated beverages, citrus drinks and coffee for their acidity and effects on acid reflux. They found that carbonated beverages were at the top of that list, as they were more acidic and caused more heartburn than any other beverage.

Here is what you can do to avoid heartburn linked with carbonated beverages:

  • green teasLook for Better Options. Go for healthier alternatives like green teas, fruit and vegetable juices and smoothies.
  • Cut Down. If you’re still drinking these beverages, try to go for low sugar and zero caffeine versions.
  • Avoid Soda Near Mealtimes. Don’t drink these drinks especially during, before and just after the meals. This will aggravate your heartburn.

Due to their high sugar content, these beverages tend to cause weight gain, which complicates the situation further. So, it’s wise to give up such beverages altogether.

Although we love to consume many of these foods and drinks, and they often play a part in our usual diets, it is easy to find alternatives. Being aware of each food item on this list is vital in understanding the common triggers for acid reflux.

Before choosing a meal or something to eat, go through each of the five items on this list and ensure that they aren’t on the ingredients list. Be vigilant when cooking, and always remember, there is another available option. If it’s chocolate, go dark, if it’s onion, choose herbs – it’s never too late to give up those foods and beverages that cause you pain and discomfort.

Choose one of these items to stop consuming today. Watch to see if it helps ease your acid reflux. Be sure to let us know of any changes you’ve seen in your body after giving up or avoiding these five foods by posting in the comments below. We’re here to share our own knowledge, as well as yours.