By Cheyenne Buckingham
Either cease or fuel the burn with these food items!
For those who are not familiar with the wrath that is acid reflux, here is a rundown of what this bothersome, digestion-related disorder entails. The burning sensation, otherwise referred to as heartburn, occurs when acid creeps back up the esophagus from the stomach. That's why people grasp at their chest—The pain can literally take your breath away. Ouch! That's why Eat This has compiled a list of 28 foods that either cause or alleviate and/or prevent acid reflux from brewing.
We'll start with the worst, but don't forget to also check out these 40 Habits That Make You Sick and Fat to see what else you might be doing that's hurting your health.
FIRST, THE WORST
1. Fried Foods
Regardless of whether you are consuming healthy fats or, well, not so healthy fats, you put yourself at risk for experiencing some digestive discomfort. Fried and fatty foods cause the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) to relax and, ultimately, not carry out its duties properly. The LES is a bundle of muscles that separates the esophagus from the stomach. More specifically, it is supposed to seal the bottom of the esophagus in order to stop food from traveling back up after it deposits in your stomach. Foods like french fries, fried chicken and that funnel cake doused in powdered sugar are actually immobilizing your LES!
2. 2% Milk
Eating high to full-fat dairy products is now "in" because they enable you to feel fuller, longer! Unfortunately, those who suffer from acid reflux struggle to reap the benefits of these items without feeling like their esophagus is eroding. Again, it has to do with the high fat content. Check out The New Milk You Must Try to learn about an alternative to cow's milk that is significantly lower in lactose (the sugar in dairy that can cause gas, bloating, and congestion). A milk with a lower content of lactose may also place less pressure on that tender LES.
Even heart healthy dark chocolate causes the acid to flood back upstream. The reason? Methylxanthines. These are naturally occurring substances that act on the central nervous system and cause the smooth muscle tissue in the LES to relax. Similarly to fatty and fried foods, cacao is just as capable of weakening the LES. The two types of methylxanthines in chocolate are caffeine and theobromine, i.e. stimulants that enable us to enjoy the "feel good" vibes you get when you nibble on a square or two.
4. Carbonated Beverages
What's that you say? You're already opening your second can of Diet Pepsi? Abort mission...now! Soda and other carbonated drinks stir up some serious esophageal distress. The bubbles in carbonation expand inside the stomach, causing a lot of extra pressure to reside just beneath your fragile LES muscles.
That morning cup of joe may just be sending your esophagus into a burning tizzy; not a great way to start the day! Opt out of the caffeine surge tomorrow morning to prevent your esophagus from roaring in heat.
"Where's the beef?" If you suffer from acid reflux, you should know that even healthfully-raised, grass-fed beef contains a good amount of fat. And fatty foods, as you now know, causes that LES to become lax. Just one 3-ounce serving of 85% lean, ground beef contains 5 grams of saturated fat. So, to put this into perspective: If you eat roughly 2,000 calories a day, this will cost 25% of your daily intake! It's best to limit this meat as much as possible in order to keep your symptoms at bay.
Ahhh, it's time for a cheat meal and you want to splurge by pairing a beer or two with dinner. Well, think twice before you pop open that second bottle because alcohol has been shown to slow the rate at which your food slithers down through your digestive system. This means your food is not being broken down as rapidly as it should—and ultimately increasing your likelihood of enduring an episode of acid reflux. Try to nurse that first beer as long as you can so you aren't as tempted to guzzle another!
Calling all cheese lovers who have an inflamed esophagus! it may be time to cut back on your beloved mac&cheese. Especially if it's Kraft or Velveeta since processed cheeses are just bad news all around. They are loaded with fat and preservatives and can induce acid reflux.
9. Jam &Jelly
"Peanut butter jelly time" is no longer a time of utter enjoyment for those who battle with acid reflux. Jelly, along with jam, ranks at the top of extremely acid forming foods weighing in with a pH of 5.5. In lieu of spreading that sugar-laden jelly across your PB, throw in some slices of an alkalizing fruit such as bananas and/or strawberries; the pH of the sandwich will be less acidic with an alkaline fruit!
Despite tomatoes stellar lycopene content, which helps the bod detox, this vegetable (or fruit?) is actually encumbered with citric and malic acid. This is detrimental to those who undergo bouts of acid reflux because these two acids can cause the stomach to produce too much gastric acid. Gastric acid is the chemical responsible for breaking down the food, and when the quantity becomes too great in size it has nowhere to go except for up into the esophagus. So, go easy on the marinara the next time you whip up spaghetti!
11. Peppermint Tea
While peppermint acts as a fabulous agent in subduing the effects of certain disorders like irritable bowel syndrome and dysplasia (not to mention it makes for a great detox tea), it unfortunately heightens the effects of acid reflux. The problem isn't that it doesn't soothe the lining of the digestive tract—rather these refreshing leaves are actually too good at soothing the muscles, specifically the LES. You may just want to skip on that after meal peppermint.
That morning dose of scrambled eggs is bothersome to your LES. If you are a vegetarian with acid reflux, check out protein shake recipes for additional ways to meet your daily protein intake without the help of meat!
13. Peanut Butter
Attention all peanut butter addicts, this PSA is for you. Peanuts are one of the higher-in-fat nuts, which means they land your LES in a hazy space. For comparison, 2 tablespoons of peanut butter clocks in at roughly 3.3 grams of saturated fat, whereas 2 tablespoons of almond butter clock in at only 1.4 grams. The difference doesn't seem very big here, but if you plug these numbers into a full week's worth (2 tablespoons every day), it calculates to an extra 13.3 grams of saturated fat per week. No wonder why your chest is in distress! If you are a diehard PB fan and refuse to give it up, at least read up on The 36 Top Peanut Butters—Ranked to see which ones are the lowest in saturated fat.
14. Table Sugar
Mom always advised against eating too much sugar to avoid inciting a "tummy ache." Well, she was right because that is exactly what fructose does to those with acid reflux, and it makes up half of the ingredients in table sugar. Sugars that aren't readily absorbed in the bloodstream tend to linger and they become nutrients for unhealthy bacteria. Yikes! This causes havoc in your stomach, which then can easily proceed to cause havoc in your esophagus. Not only is sugar one of those 50 Little Things Making You Fatter and Fatter, it's also fueling the fire that is torching your organ.
NOW, THE BEST
Enough talk about feeling the burn! Ginger is one of the many foods you can eat to avoid aggravating your esophagus. For starters, ginger is notorious for its anti-inflammatory properties and is often used to treat gastrointestinal conditions. Woohoo! Interestingly enough, the component in ginger that helps relieve symptoms of acid reflux is melatonin. You probably know melatonin as the sleepytime chemical our bodies produce. But when levels of melatonin are too low, stomach acid becomes more prevalent. Not only does melatonin reduce gastric acid, it also prevents the loosening or weakening of the LES. Dice, slice, or shave this fresh root into a smoothie or tea!
By now, you should already know that oatmeal is the bomb.com. These whole grains won't cause acidity to stir; in fact, it absorbs it. Yep, if you were to throw it in cranberries (which are pretty acidic) it would actually soak up the acidity, therefore, neutralizing the dish! In other words, you are in the clear to mix in your favorite fruits that have previously caused pain.
17. Almond Butter
If you weren't already a connoisseur of almond butter, then you will be now! As stated in the peanut butter blurb, this nut butter contains a bit less saturated fat, so your LES will not be so quick to go lazy when it passes through!
18. Raw Spinach
Not only does 1 cup fulfill a remarkable 987% of your daily vitamin K needs, it also is one of the most alkaline foods in its raw state! Alkaline foods are essential to consume because they balance out the pH in our bodies; they work to neutralize the acidity. But make it a point to eat consume spinach in its raw state. It actually becomes a bit acidic once it's cooked.
Watermelon this, watermelon that. Check out 12 watermelon trends you have to try to get it on board with all of the cool, healthful products that now incorporate watermelon! What's better is that this fruit actually has an alkalizing effect on your body. More clearly, it reduces the acidity in your system. Your LES and your kidneys will both thank you for this one because watermelon is chock-full of the substance that your body craves extra of in the summer: H2O.
Did you do a double take when you saw lentils? We understand. Many people think this high fiber food is notorious for causing bloating, gas, and even heartburn. However, it's the way that they are prepared most times that causes these symptoms to escalate. Most times people like to douse their lentils in spices and seasonings, two major culprits of acid reflux. So enjoy 'em plain or at least go easy on the pepper!
All hail kale! This leafy green is not only one of the 25 Best Foods for a Toned Body, it ranks right up there with spinach on the alkaline scale.
Did you know in the Inca language quinoa means mother grain? It truly is the mother of all grains! Packed with protein, this ancient grain and fellow member of the chenopod family is another fantastic alkaline choice. For more ideas on how to make delectable dinner, discover what quinoa bowls are all about!
Health experts say that you burn more calories eating and digesting celery than it's actually worth. What a deal! Munch on this snack to reap its alkalizing effects and, similar to watermelon, get an extra boost of hydration. It also has the ability to quell hunger pangs, so if it's 5:30 p.m. and dinner isn't until 7 p.m., grab a stalk of celery to quiet those grumbles.
One word: bromelain. This enzyme is one of the sole reasons why pineapple is one of the best foods to eat to tame the flame of acid reflux. More specifically, bromelain is an anti-inflammatory agent that aid digestion and, as a result, reduces your symptoms of acid reflux. You'll also boost your metabolism with a cup of fresh pineapple!
These low-in-calorie red bulbs contain a variety of chemicals that enable digestion to flow smoothly, making your chances of experiencing an acidic uproar in your throat very minimal. Numerous cultures swear by the radishes' ability to alleviate heartburn and stomach aches and gas. In addition, radishes are key players in keeping your gallbladder in good health.
Get your summer detox with this extraordinary, underrated veggie! Broccoli is loaded in probiotics, which comprise of good bacteria that your gut loves to flourish in. (Perhaps you have heard doctors recommend yogurt to their patients if they prescribed them antibiotics, since antibiotics extinguish all—good and bad—gut bugs.) Probiotics work to protect the good—and keep away the bad, which can sneakily encourage gastric acid to fuss with your LES.
Don't get too excited; we here at Eat This are not suggesting you go out and buy Twizzlers or any of the 150 Worst Packaged Foods in America. We are recommending, however, that you invest in a small amount of licorice root because it is an effective way to reduce inflammation in your body. In fact, it is even used to treat anything from stomach ulcers to diabetes! Prevent your stomach acid from going haywire with a little pinch of licorice's natural form.
Last, but certainly not least, we have this tropical fruit! Papain is the enzyme credible for improving your digestion and assists your body with absorbing protein. It can also, of course, help with acid reflux. Put down that bottle of Tums for good, and dig into a nice, juicy papaya instead.
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By Jennifer Ashton, MD
ABC News Chief Women's Health Correspondent