A lot of people suffer from acid reflux these days. I’ve had it myself and I can testify to how painful and irritating it can be. This is why I wrote this list of acid reflux foods to avoid, so you can spend less time in pain and more time doing the things you love!
At the end of this article, I will also explain what causes acid reflux so you can have a better understanding of how your body works.
The top acid reflux foods to avoid are foods with high-fat content, spicey foods with a lot of burn, fried foods, high acidic foods such as tomato-based sauces, onion and garlic, and caffeinated, sugary drinks. Let’s take a closer look at these.
High-Fat Foods And Your Stomach Acid:
Let’s start with what I consider to be the biggest culprit of acid reflux, the high-fat food.
Due to our poor eating habits and the American diet, we turn towards foods like cheese, and dairy in general, more than we should.
Unless you have a really bad case of acid reflux, you could probably have a small amount of cheese without it causing too much trouble but the problem starts when we eat too much of it. We’ll get into the why in a minute but here are some high-fat foods to avoid when you have acid reflux.
- Red Meat
- Oil-Rich Fish (Salmon, Kipper, Pilchard)
Do Fried Foods Cause Acid Reflux?
That covers the more common high-fat foods but now let’s take a look at another common cause of acid reflux, fried foods. If you’re in America, you might know that each state is kind of known for its own fried food delicacy. The simplest way to avoid these foods is to look at the name.
For example, Pennsylvania is known for frying up cheesesteaks. Not only is cheese and red meat a cause of acid reflux, but they’re also now being wrapped in a tortilla, deep-fried in hot oil (another fat) and then served with a side of melted cheese for dipping and pouring.
While this might sound like heaven to your tastebuds, your stomach is already crying at the thought. The rule of thumb here is “if its fried, it’s bad”
Here are a few obvious examples of fried foods that cause acid.
- Fried Okra
- Onion Rings
- Tater Tots
- Potato Chips (you might be ok with baked but YMMV)
Spicy Foods, The Flue of Heartburn:
We all love some fire in our food, its the spice of life, but our stomachs are not impressed. Did you know that spices like hot peppers are actually toxic to the body? That is what causes that burn on the tongue and the acid in the stomach, its a warning from the body that this thing is technically poisonous to us. While some people have actually died from eating peppers, its normally from allergic reaction rather than toxicity, its still a crazy little know fact.
The main compound in a chili that makes it burn is called capsaicin and this is what the body is reacting to. It’s used to strip industrial paint and is the active ingredient in bear spray.
Because of this reaction to capsaicin, your stomach will not appreciate the next time you sit down in from of a bowl of chili! If you are brought up I a culture that eats hot food, you will most likely have a much higher tolerance for the toxicity of capsaicin as it will be passed along in your genetic makeup. For the rest of the world though…
Here are some acid-inducing, spicy foods to avoid if you have acid reflux.
- Curry (the hot stuff like Vindaloo, Phaal and Thai Curry)
- Sichuan Peppers
- Creole Dishes
- Jerk Seasoning (anything with Jerk in the name is going to burn)
Acidic Foods That You Might Not Know About:
After dissecting all that spicy food, this list will seem tame but these are some of the less obvious acid reflux foods to avoid. Some of these you might be okay with, others will cause issues so listen to what your body is telling you and if you’re suffering from acid reflux at the moment, steer clear of these foods until it calms down.
There are some obvious fruits and veggies that you will already know but there are some little know factoids that might surprise you.
While you might think that lemons are an obvious addition to the banned list, this is actually not quite true. Lemon is acidic and if you have acid right now, they could make it worse but in actual fact, lemons alkalize the body. When the body processes the lemon juice, it actually uses it to alter the ph balance of the blood.
Here are some other foods that are not so forgiving to the stomach.
- Tropical Fruits
- Onion & Garlic
- Vinegarettes & Sauces (Ketchup too)
- Broccoli (some people have reported this although I don’t have a problem with it myself)
Drinks That Can Cause Acid Reflux
It’s a common misconception that drinks are fine and won’t cause you any stomach acid or acid reflux issues. Some people will grab a glass of milk to help them cope with the discomfort but this is a bad idea. Milk has fat, even the skimmed stuff still contains some fats which will not help the situation you’re facing. If you drink 0 %, fat-free milk, you might get away with it but don’t drink too much!
What about coffee? Well if you drink black coffee, there’s no fat so it might seem like a safe bet but its actually not. The caffeine found in tea and coffee causes the stomach valve muscle to relax and partially open causing the acid to travel up the esophagus.
Here is a list of drinks that can cause acid reflux :
- Fruit Juice
- Energy Drinks
- Tea & Coffee
- Milk & Dairy-Based Drinks (shakes, smoothies, etc)
After reading this list you might be wondering why energy drinks and soda are there, surely they’re safe to drink when you have acid, right?.
Actually, no. Energy drinks contain high levels of caffeine and sugar. While I already mentioned caffeine, I didn’t mention sugar so let me do that here
Sugar is hard for the body to digest and process. On the other hand, natural sweeteners like honey and agave most likely won’t affect you. Like most things in life though, YMMV.
Other Acid Reflux Foods To Avoid
In the list above I have covered the most common acid reflux triggers but there are others foods that can also be a trigger for some people. Take a look at this list and see if you can spot foods that you eat often, if you find them, try to limit them from your diet and see how your acid reflux is after a few weeks. As a side note, smoking can auso cause stomach acid to hit.
Here’s a list of other acid reflux foods to avoid
- Spearmint (Mentha spicata)
- Wholewheat Pasta
- Bacon, Sausage & Ham
What Causes Acid Reflux?
Everything I’ve listed above will aggravate and irritate your stomach but the actual cause of acid reflux is a weak stomach valve. I can imagine a look of confusion on your face right now so let me explain in more detail. If you are squeamish or have a weak stomach (no pun intended), you might want to skip to the conclusion. For the rest of you, let’s take a look at what happens in the stomach to cause acid reflux.
The stomach is a bag with tubes coming out of it. The neck of the bag has a tube that leads all the way to the mouth and this is called the esophagus. Its a tube of muscles that tighten in sequence to squeeze the food you eat down to the stomach for processing.
At the end of the esophagus is the neck of the stomach bag.
All bags have a way of closing otherwise they would be useless and the stomach is no different. The stomach is closed off by a ring of muscle called the cardiac sphincter that stops food and acid from the stomach bag going back up the esophagus.
When you have acid reflux, this muscle is not closing properly and because of the opening, acid is able to leak up into the esophagus.
There are a few reasons why this muscle can weaken and not work properly so if you have bad acid reflux twice a weak or more, you might want to see your doctor to make sure you don’t have a hernia.
If you have been around this blog for a while, you’ll know that I’m not a fan of over the counter medications or chemical medications in general. If you and/or your doctor have ruled out a hernia, you can check out my other post called “home remedy for heartburn” which should help you deal with the acid reflux without drugs.
Eating clean and light will stop your acid reflux and let you enjoy your life more. The why I stopped my acid reflux was to live a vegan lifestyle and while I do fall short some times, my stomach handles it without the issues I used to have. I know veganism isn’t for everyone but do your stomach a favor and take a hard look at what you eat and make some changes, your stomach, and overall health will thank you for it!
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