Have you ever felt that hot burning sensation in your chest? Have you ever felt a discomfort in your stomach after consuming certain meals? If your answer is yes, then you are familiar with the inconvenience caused by acid reflux. Everyone has felt that sensation at least once in life but if you feel that discomfort after every time you eat then you need to address your acid reflux problem.
Acid reflux, generally termed “acidity”, is a common digestive problem. When you eat food, your stomach produces acid to aid its digestion. This process is made possible by the presence of sphincter muscles present at the base of your oesophagus which prevents food from coming back up after being consumed. It, thereby, also prevents the entry of stomach acid in the oesophagus. In acid reflux, these sphincter muscles don’t function properly causing the acid and traces of partially digested food to flow back into the oesophagus, giving you the burning sensation in your chest and throat.
Acid reflux can be easily managed with changes in eating habits. If you experience acid reflux occasionally, identifying your triggers can be helpful. Whenever you feel the burning sensation, you can make a note of what you ate a couple of hours before the symptoms were triggered. Here’s a list of acid reflux triggers that you need to be aware of and avoid eating if you have recurring acid reflux problem.
- Spicy foods: Acid reflux has become like an epidemic in India for a simple reason that our meals contain considerable amount of spices. Spices contain capsaicin, which not only causes inflammation of the esophagal lining but also interferes with the function of the sphincter muscles. So, the first step to prevent acid reflux is to cut down on spicy content in your everyday meals.
- Fat rich foods: Everything fried and junk, from French fries to burgers, is bad for your digestive health if you have acidity. Fatty foods are greasy in nature and they do not allow the sphincter muscles to tighten completely. This leads to an opening for stomach acids to easily flow towards the oesophagus, resulting in acid reflux. Also, fried foods are difficult to digest, so they stay in your stomach for a longer period of time and as long as they stay in the stomach, acid reflux will continue to irritate you.
- Dairy products: Dairy products such as butter milk, yogurt, cheese, butter and a variety of creams have a lot to offer when it comes to acidity. They are naturally acidic but don’t contribute to the stomach acid. However, they do exhibit the property of inhibiting the function esophagal sphincter. So, it’s best to avoid them if they trigger heart burn for you.
- Citrus fruits: Although citrus fruits count as healthy food, those having severe, recurring acid reflux should avoid them because they naturally contain high acid content, contributing to stomach acid that may flow back into the esophagus. These fruits include lemons, grapes, oranges, sweet limes and pineapples.
- Tomatoes: Tomatoes are another acid containing fruits which can be a bad trigger for acidity. The contain both citric acid and malic acid which can add to the stomach acid, exaggerating heart burn and chest discomfort. So, those with severe acidity should stay away from tomato rich foods, including sauces.
- Onions: Another common dietary habit among Indians is consumption of raw onion alongside meals. Onions contain fermentable fibre, which is known to trigger belching and further worsening acid reflux. In addition to that, onions also cause sphincter muscle relaxation which sets in the symptoms of acidity.
- Carbonated drinks: Carbonated beverages like colas or drinks containing soda or fizz, have a tendency to increase pressure in the stomach which interferes with the function of the sphincters causing acidity. So it’s better to stay away from them. Instead drink plenty of water to flush out the acid.
- Chocolates: Chocolates are rich in caffeine, which makes it one of worst foods to consume in acid reflux. Cocoa, used in chocolate preparation, causes a rise in serotonin levels and this may cause your sphincter muscles to relax. As a result, the acidic content rises and flows back into the esophagus.
- Garlic: Garlic, a very common ingredient in Indian meals, is also a common contributor of acid reflux. Garlic is stingy and can cause irritation as well as inflammation of the esophagal lining. When the acid rises in the esophagus, you may feel severe discomfort due to the inflammation caused by it.
- Coffee: If you are a regular coffee drinker, you are bound to have recurring acidity. Coffee contains caffeine, which inhibits the function of esophagal sphincter. Further, coffee also drives away hunger pangs, which may cause you to stay on an empty stomach for a longer period of time. This, in turn, leads to accumulation of stomach acid which flows up to the oesophagus.
- Alcohol: Alcohol is a known unhealthy consumption habit. Along with numerous other problems, alcohol can cause damage to your gastric lining as well as mucosal lining in the oesophagus.
While these are common triggers of acid reflux, different people may react differently to these foods. Sometime moderate consumption of these foods can help in controlling acid reflux, while sometimes even tiny amount of these foods can cause a lot of discomfort. It’s best that you identify your triggers and modify your dietary habits accordingly.
Dietician Arti Jain
MSc (Dietetics), PG Dip(Nutrition), Diabetic Educator (USA), International Certified Obesity Management (Australia), International Sports Nutrition ( California), Dip in Skin Aesthetics & Trichology