It’s possible for every person to experience heartburn or acid reflux once in a blue moon. If these symptoms occur two to three times per week, it’s very possible that you have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). And while over-the-counter prescriptions are available to calm symptoms, you can often manage them by steering clear of certain trigger foods.
What Is GERD?
GERD, sometimes referred to as chronic acid reflux, is a condition that occurs when acid-containing contents in the stomach lead into the esophagus, throat, and mouth. As a result, the stomach’s acid forms a backwash up through the esophagus into the throat and mouth. The backwash causes a burning sensation in the esophagus and sour taste in the mouth. In a healthy person, the esophageal sphincter (lower part of the esophagus) should not allow food and acid from the stomach back into the esophagus. Unfortunately for people with GERD, that does not happen, and a burning, uncomfortable sensation ensues.
Many people with GERD are familiar with over-the-counter antacids to relieve the burning sensation. Another way to reduce the risk of symptoms is by modifying diet and lifestyle habits. Many medical experts agree that certain foods make symptoms worse. To help combat symptoms, experts advise that you avoid the common triggers detailed below.
Tomatoes and tomato-based sauces or food products can cause GERD symptoms. That means you should avoid tomato juice, salsas with tomatoes, and any other tomato dish. Dietitians believe that this is because of the acidic nature of tomatoes. As a result, they can increase the stomach’s acid levels.
Several studies indicate that eating spicy foods can cause burning symptoms in people with gastrointestinal disorders. Capsaicin, the chemical compound that gives peppers their spice, can irritate certain parts of the esophagus. A 2017 study found that hot, spicy stews increased GERD symptoms in more than 50% of participants.
If you drink caffeinated beverages daily, this is going to be a hard pill to swallow. Both the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the American College of Gastroenterology suggest that people with GERD limit caffeine consumption. Be it tea, coffee, or certain food products, caffeine can induce GERD symptoms and irritate the esophagus. Try your best to focus on water instead.
Bologna, sausage, bacon, and other similar meats fall under the fatty meats umbrella. The combination of excess sodium and saturated fats instigate GERD symptoms. The reason for this is because they decrease tension in the lower part of the esophagus. When it cannot close properly, it allows acid to flow up from the stomach. Additionally, fatty foods take longer to leave the stomach because they are more difficult to digest. This is why it’s common to experience regurgitation after consuming fatty meats.
One of the primary GERD or acid reflux offenders is fast food. There’s a direct connection between the consumption of fries, donuts, fried chicken, processed foods, and convenience foods and GERD symptoms. One study found that consuming fried onion rings, French fries, potato chips, and other processed fried foods increased the risk of reflux symptoms. Avoiding these foods will not only help reduce GERD symptoms, but also reduce your consumption of saturated fats, which positively impacts heart health.
Another major GERD offender is alcohol, which can cause several problems. Not only does it impair vision and judgment, but it also relaxes the lower part of the esophagus. Alcohol is similar to fatty meats in that way. Additionally, alcohol increases stomach acid and impairs how the stomach empties. If you have GERD it’s best to avoid alcohol or drink it in moderation to see if it causes symptoms.
Soda can aggravate acid reflux symptoms in two ways. Soda is similar to coffee in that a lot of it contains caffeine, which irritates the esophagus. The second irritating factor is the carbonation, which inflates the stomach and its internal pressure. This combination, along with the relaxant effect of caffeine on the lower part of the esophagus, can trigger GERD symptoms. Energy drinks tend to have a similar effect as well.