Acid reflux is a common condition that is also sometimes called acid indigestion, heartburn or pyrosis.
In acid reflux, some of the stomach acid flows back up into the esophagus. Under normal conditions, the esophageal sphincter, a ring of muscle that sits between the esophagus and stomach, acts as a valve that keeps everything flowing from the esophagus to the stomach. In acid reflux, the sphincter doesn’t work, and stomach acid backs up into the esophagus.
Stomach acid contains such powerful acids as hydrochloric acid that protect the stomach from pathogens and break down food. The stomach has a protective lining, but the esophagus does not. Stomach acid getting into the esophagus thus causes heartburn, a painful burning feeling behind the breastbone. Heartburn can last for hours, and eating makes it worse. In some cases, the stomach acid goes all the way up to the back of the throat, and the patient experiences a sour or bitter taste.
Acid reflux has multiple causes. Conditions like ulcers, stomach tumors, or hiatal hernias can all cause it, as can some medications. Acid reflux can also be caused by obesity, stress, and overconsumption of alcohol, coffee, spicy food, soda, and table salt. There are various medications that can help acid reflux, but there are also dietary changes you can make to reduce symptoms.
By avoiding some foods and eating others, you can reduce your acid reflux. The following thirteen foods are among those known to relive or even prevent heartburn:
Oatmeal contains whole grains that are an excellent source of antioxidants, Vitamin B6, folic acid, and fiber. It can also absorb acids from other foods, like the raisins that are often paired with it. Having oatmeal for breakfast is a great way to prevent or reduce acidity. It works by coating and protecting the lining of the stomach.
People have used ginger for millennia as an anti-inflammatory and a treatment for gastrointestinal problems. The root can be prepared in a variety of ways: You can dice it, slice it, peel it, or shave it with a cheese grater. You can then use the root in smoothies or various recipes. You can also eat ginger chews or drink ginger tea, which has anti-inflammatory properties.
3. Lean Meat
Lean meat, like chicken, turkey, seafood, and some fish can help reduce acid. Preparation, however, is key. You need to remove the skin from chicken and turkey because the skin is high in fat. Similarly, you should not fry the meat, for that will make it fattier. On the other hand, you can grill, poach, broil or bake them. Since spicy seasonings exacerbate acid reflux, you need to be careful about what you use to flavor your meat.
Chicken is an excellent source of protein; a four-ounce serving will provide 2/3 of the amount the average adult needs daily. Seafood and fish are also good sources of protein.
Yogurt is loaded with probiotics that help digestion. It also relieves the inflammation acidity causes through its cooling effect. You can eat yogurt plain or make it into a smoothie by mixing in non-citrus fruits like strawberries, bananas, or peaches. Don’t use citrus fruits, however, for they are highly acidic and will make your acid reflux worse. Pineapple also contains a lot of acid and should thus also be avoided.
5. Couscous and rice
Both couscous and rice contain a lot of complex carbohydrates. Brown rice has more fiber than does white rice, so it is more effective at reducing acidity.
Couscous is a pasta, while race is a grain, but they are prepared and eaten in similar ways. Couscous is made from a type of coarsely-ground wheat called semolina. Whole-wheat couscous, like brown rice, provides more health benefits than white rice or regular couscous. For example, brown rice and whole-wheat couscous cause less of a spike in blood sugar than do white rice or regular couscous.
Brown rice and whole-what couscous are both whole-grain foods. As such, they contain lots of magnesium, iron, and B vitamins. As they still have their bran and germ layers, they are good sources of antioxidants. Both brown rice and whole-wheat couscous are also good sources of fiber, which helps keep the digestive tract regular. One cup of couscous provides about 10 percent of the fiber the average adult needs daily.
Bananas have a pH score of 5.6, which makes them less acidic than many fruits. They are thus a good food choice for most people with acid reflux. Paradoxically, they can worsen the symptoms in about one percent of acid reflux patients.
A food’s pH score indicates how acidic it is. The lower the score, the more acidic the food. For example, lemon juice has a pH score of 2.0, which is why it is on the “do not eat” list for people with acid reflux. Generally speaking, you want to stick to foods that have a pH score of at least 5.0. You can generally google the needed information or find it in a low-acid diet cookbook.
7. Green vegetables
Green vegetables like asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, celery, and green beans are all low in acid. They are also low in sugar and fat. Cabbage contains phytonutrients that help reduce acidity and can even treat ulcers. Green vegetables are also good sources of roughage, and they can suppress the appetite. Green vegetables also help eyesight and lower cholesterol.
In a 2017 study, researchers assembled an artificial stomach and filled it artificial gastric acid. They used three controls: water, an antacid preparation called ENO, and sodium bicarbonate. The intent was to have baselines against which to compare various foods: Would they neutralize the acid as effectively as ENO or sodium bicarbonate, or would they be as ineffective as water?
The scientists tested the following foods: broccoli, cold milk, cucumber, kale, lemon juice, curd, and radish. Except for the lemon juice, all of the foods produced more antacid activity than did water. All of them could relieve acid indigestion to some extent. Broccoli and cold milk had the strongest antacid effects. Broccoli is alkaline, so it can neutralize stomach acid. Cucumber, kale, radish, and spinach are all also alkaline, and they have many other health benefits.
Green vegetables can be cooked or made into a juice or a salad. If you do the latter, avoid using tomatoes or onions, for they are both highly acidic. Also avoid cheeses and dressings that contain a lot of fat.
8. Root vegetables
Many root vegetables, like potatoes, are good for people with acid reflux. Sweet potatoes, for example, have the advantage of taking a long time to digest, which lets them absorb extra stomach acid. You should avoid onions, however, as they are more acidic than other root vegetables.
Root vegetables also contain a lot of nutrients including antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins. Contrary to popular belief, they also have few calories. They do contain a lot of starch, however, and people also prepare them in ways that make them extremely fattening – like adding sour cream and bacon bits to a baked potato. As with lean meats, you need to find other ways to prepare and season them.
Like bananas, melons have a lower acid content than do most other fruits. Melons like watermelon, cantaloupe, and honeydew have an average pH of 6.1. Muskmelon contains antioxidants, beta-carotene, and fiber that reduce acidity and actually help the stomach heal. Melons are also like bananas in that a small percentage of patients with acid reflux feel worse after eating them.
Some nuts are also good for acid reflux. Walnuts have a high pH score and are thus alkaline, so they can fight acid reflux by neutralizing the stomach acid. They also contain healthy fats, potassium, protein, and omega-3 fatty acids. Almonds are also alkaline and contain a lot of proteins and fiber. Like sweet potatoes, they take a long time to digest, so they can absorb more stomach acid. You can use almond milk to make smoothies.
11. Aloe Vera Juice
Made from the leaves of the aloe vera plant, aloe vera juice contains a lot of alkaline content and water. It can thus provide relief from acid reflux. You can either drink the juice plain or mix it with other non-citrus fruit juices.
In a 2015 study, researchers tested the effectiveness of aloe vera juice on patients suffering from GERD. They gave the aloe vera juice to the patients twice a day over a four-week long period. The patients all showed improvements in their symptoms. The researchers also found that the juice did not cause any unpleasant side effects and was thus safe to take. They cautiously concluded that aloe vera “may provide a safe and effective treatment” for GERD.
Aloe vera juice is believed to work by reducing inflammation and acid production. Authorities warn, however, that you should only drink purified and decolorized aloe vera, since other forms of aloe vera can contain a compound called anthraquinone. It’s a powerful laxative and can thus cause diarrhea. People with diabetes need to consult their doctor before drinking aloe vera, since the juice can interact with certain medications.
12. Healthy Fats
The human body needs fat as fuel, just as it needs carbohydrates and protein. Some fats, unfortunately, can cause obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. Saturated fat and trans fat are both bad fats that can impair health and worsen acid reflux. Saturated fats in general often come from the fattier meats and dairy products, but they also come from tropical oils like cocoa butter or palm oil. Saturated fats and trans fats are typically solid at room temperature.
Trans fats or trans fatty acids, which are the most unhealthy fats, are found in foods made with partially hydrogenated vegetable oils. They are found in processed snack foods like popcorn and crackers, margarine, vegetable shortening, fried foods, and baked goods like cakes, pastries, and cookies.
By contrast, polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats are good for you: They lower your cholesterol and reduce your chances of developing heart disease. These healthy fats, like vegetable oil, are usually liquid at room temperature.
Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of polyunsaturated fat, and they are found in fatty fish like salmon, trout, sardines, and herring. Flaxweed, canola oil, and walnuts contain smaller amounts of omega-3 fatty acids.
Other types of polyunsaturated fats, like omega-6 fatty acids, can be found in walnuts, tofu, seeds, and vegetable oils. Margarine also contains polyunsaturated fat, but it also often contains trans fats and/or saturated fats. If you want to use margarine, you will need to check the ingredients list to determine what kinds of fats are in it.
Monounsaturated fats are found in a variety of oils and foods, and most of them come from plants. Good sources of monounsaturated fats include avocados, vegetable oils, and nuts like pecans, peanuts, cashews, and almonds. Peanut butter and almond butter are also good sources of monounsaturated fats.
Honey has antibacterial properties that can reduce heartburn and stomach acid. Researchers have found that honey helps patients with acid reflux or GERD by coating the linings of the esophagus and stomach and thus keeping food and gastric juices from flowing back upwards. Honey also stimulates the esophageal sphincter to further reduce acid reflux. Drinking a warm glass of water mixed with honey is a healthy way to start the day.
Eating the above foods will help improve your symptoms, but doctors would recommend eating them anyway, as they are all nutritious and thus provide important health benefits. Unfortunately, it’s also only part of the battle. Some patients with acid reflux have “trigger foods” or foods that nearly always cause a bout of acid reflux. Common culprits include fatty foods, tomatoes, citrus fruit, mint, caffeine, alcohol, chocolate, garlic, onions, and spicy foods.
Limiting fatty foods like red meat, French fries, creamy sauces, and desserts is always a good move in terms of improving your health. So is controlling your consumption of alcohol and caffeine. But some of the other trigger foods, like onions, tomatoes, and citrus fruit provide many beneficial nutrients. Reducing or avoiding them will thus mean finding equally nutritious and tasty substitutes, and the above list can help you do so.
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