Have you ever felt particularly off after a late night of drinking with friends? Although your first thought might be that you’re hungover, it’s actually very possible that acid reflux is to blame. Knowing which foods to avoid for acid reflux could be the key to lessening the symptoms.
What is acid reflux?
“Acid reflux, also called GERD or gastroesophageal reflux disorder, occurs when acids from your stomach that are used to digest food, travel up toward your mouth through your esophagus,” explains celebrity chef, nutritionist, and reiki master Serena Poon. “When you eat, the valve at the end of your esophagus usually closes, but sometimes it relaxes when it is not supposed to (sometimes caused by things like delayed digestion or increased stomach pressure), allowing the acid from your stomach to flow in the other direction.”
Like so many health-related quandaries, acid reflux isn’t solely caused by one thing. Instead, NYC-based dietitian Jennifer Maeng says that it can be triggered or exacerbated by smoking, pregnancy, stress, anxiety, medication, and being overweight, not to mention a number of foods and drinks.
Acid Reflux Symptoms
No matter the cause of your acid reflux, the symptoms tend to remain the same.
“Acid reflux often causes heartburn, or a burning sensation in your chest, coughing, a feeling of a blocked or scratchy throat, or regurgitation,” says Poon, the founder of Just Add Water and creator of Culinary Alchemy.
Sound familiar? If you’ve ever felt any of these symptoms, know that you’re not alone. Recent data shows that about one-third of the population experiences heartburn each and every week. The good news? According to Poon, acid reflux (and its symptoms) can usually be resolved with minor dietary shifts. With that in mind, ahead you’ll find a list of which acid reflux foods to avoid in order to help nix acid reflux from your daily life.
Acid Reflux Foods To Avoid
1. Fried and Fatty Foods
2. Highly Acidic Produce
Think: tomatoes and citrus fruits. “These foods can make your stomach produce more acid, which might lead to reflux,” Poon says. With this in mind, if you regularly experience acid reflux, you may want to cut back not only on fresh tomatoes and fruits, but pizza, pomodoro spaghetti, greyhounds, and any other popular dishes made with the culprits.
Again, we know they’re delicious, but according to Poon, onions are notorious for causing GERD. That said, raw onions are more triggering than cooked onions, so if you’re far too in love with the veggie to scrap it from your diet, try to opt for grilled, roasted, sauteed, and caramelized onion offerings where you can.
Remember the common scenario we mentioned in the intro? The common feeling of something being off post-drinking? “There is a clear connection between alcohol consumption and the occurence of acid reflux, likely due to damage to the esophagus by alcohol and its byproducts,” Poon says. As such, if you’re prone to heartburn during or after a night of drinking, it’s worthwhile to cut back. If you find yourself in a situation where you don't want to, there’s always the option to reach in your bag for a couple of TUMS Extra Strength Antacid Tablets ($14) (my best friend taught me this trick a few years ago and recently reminded me of it during our first time in NashVegas—ahem, Nashville—and let me tell you: It works).
5. Spicy Foods
Whether it’s pepperoni, hot sauce, nachos, peppers, or wasabi, spicy foods might satisfy a craving but they’re also much more likely to cause acid reflux. “There is some research that indicates spicy foods might lead to acid reflux,” Poon says. “Most guidelines suggest avoiding them if you are experiencing symptoms of GERD.” (If that sounds like a punishment, though, keeping a bottle of TUMS Chewable Bites Ultra Strength Antacid Tablets for Heartburn and Acid Reducer Indigestion Relief ($25 for three bottles) on hand can give you a bit more free reign.)
6. Eating Late at Night
Believe it or not, foods and drinks themselves aren’t the only dietary choices that can cause acid reflux—when you consume them can, too. According to Poon, the later you eat, the more likely you are to experience heartburn. “Eating late at night can cause GERD, as lying horizontally shortly after eating can cause a backflow of gastric acid,” she explains. That said, if you can’t go without that late night slice (or loaded hotdog), just be sure to wait a while before you lay down.
Other Ways To Deal With Acid Reflux
Not everyone experiences acid reflux identically. So, while the foods and drinks listed above are the most common culprits, Poon admits that what might cause acid reflux for one person might not trigger another, and vice versa. If you're experiencing chronic acid reflux, you should consult your doctor sooner rather than later.
“If you struggle with acid reflux, I recommend starting a food diary,” she says. “In it, you can note when eating something—or a certain activity (say eating before exercise)—causes you to experience acid reflux. Once you understand your triggers, you can plan your diet and day accordingly.”
Can’t get on board with an old-school food diary? The Whoop 4.0 comes equipped with a journal function within the app that lets you track key choices and behaviors—including late meals, alcohol, fats, and dairy consumption, and more.
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