Acid reflux is a very common symptom of burning pain felt internally around the lower chest area, caused by stomach acid flowing back up the esophagus. Occasional reflux happens to almost everyone. But millions of people suffer from Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), defined by acid reflux occurring more than twice a week. It is painful and can make life miserable, not to mention the long-term health risks associated with chronic GERD. Diet is important for those who suffer from reflux. If you are one of those people, these are four of the worst foods for reflux:
- Tomatoes – Tomatoes contain two major types of acids – malic and citrus. Both can trigger reflux. Parietal cells create the acid that naturally lines the stomach, known as gastric acid. Gastric acid breaks down foods that have been eaten and are sitting in the stomach. For some folks, once the acids of tomato-based foods are consumed, their bodies begin to produce too much gastric acid. This can back up into the esophagus, causing a burning sensation in the chest. Avoid pizza, pasta sauce and anything else consisting of a tomato base.
- Coffee and Tea – Caffeine – a major component of many varieties of both coffee and tea – has been identified as a common trigger for heartburn and acid reflux. It has been shown to relax the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), which prevents the backward flow of stomach contents that causes reflux. The more processed the product is, the more caffeine it has. So dark coffee and black tea should be avoided. If you can’t get by without your caffeine kick, try a lighter coffee or green tea.
- Chocolate – Sadly, if you suffer from reflux, chocolate is not your friend. It’s a triple whammy, too. Chocolate contains caffeine and other stimulants such as theobromine, which is known to cause reflux. Chocolate is also high in fat and cocoa, both of which are known to cause reflux. Theoretically, dark chocolate may not be as bad as high-fat milk chocolate, but if you’re prone to reflux, you should probably avoid it altogether.
- Citrus – Citrus contains more acid than other fruits and while the stomach is able to withstand the extra citric acid, the esophagus is not. The acid triggers reflux symptoms when it relaxes the LES. If you suffer from reflux, you may be able to tolerate pineapple or apricot juice since the citric acid content is not quite as high in these fruits.