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What Foods to Avoid if You Have Acid Reflux

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Cutting out these foods can help prevent acid reflux
Eric Savage via Getty Images

Acid reflux can be painful, causing heartburn, chest pain and other symptoms. Acid reflux occurs when stomach acid travels back up through the esophagus. The condition is common — many people experience it occasionally, while others with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) experience severe symptoms frequently. Monitoring your diet is one of the best ways to combat acid reflux. The foods you eat affect the amount of acid your stomach produces, and certain foods are known to cause problems. To help manage your acid reflux symptoms, here are the top foods you should avoid eating.

Bacon

Bacon
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It may be one of the most iconic breakfast foods, but bacon is unfortunately one of the worst foods for triggering acid reflux. Fatty and greasy foods cause the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) to relax, which allows more acid to travel back up to the esophagus. Bacon fat, ham fat and lard all have high fat content.

Red meat

Red meat
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Besides bacon, red meats, which include beef, lamb and pork, typically have a higher percentage of fat than other types of meats. To help protect against acid reflux, eat foods like burgers and steaks sparingly.

Cheese

Cheese
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Many dairy products also have high fat content, such as cheese, whole milk, sour cream and more. If you’re prone to acid reflux, you should skip an after-dinner scoop of ice cream too.

Butter

Butter
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High-fat foods also take longer to digest and sit in your stomach longer. This makes your stomach produce more acid. Butter is another dairy product with a high fat content, so consider swapping in a healthy cooking oil instead while making dinner.

Coffee or tea

Coffee or tea
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Caffeine is a common trigger of heartburn, and coffee and tea can have a lot of it. Keep your coffee cup count low and replace it with something else, like a soothing cup of decaf tea. There are many kinds of tea without caffeine that can actually help soothe an upset stomach.

Carbonated drinks

Carbonated drinks
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Many people turn to carbonated drinks like soda or sparkling water to sip on instead of coffee or tea, however, those are acid reflux triggers as well. The bubbles in these kinds of drinks expand in your stomach, which can create more pressure and pain.

Citrus

Citrus
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Adding slices of citrus to your water is one way to help you drink more water throughout the day. However, lemons, limes, oranges and other citrus fruits are highly acidic, increasing your chance of stomach trouble.

Tomatoes

Tomatoes
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Like citrus, tomatoes, which are actually a fruit, are highly acidic. If you are prone to heartburn, you should avoid tomatoes and tomato-based foods, including marinara, chili and salsa.

Garlic

Garlic
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Garlic is a staple in cuisines and dishes from around the world. Unfortunately, this heart-healthy, flavorful food can trigger heartburn symptoms in many people.

Onion

Onion
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A relative to garlic, onions, especially raw onions, are another food that can commonly cause acid reflux. If onions irritate you, you can find cooking swaps so that you can still make your favorite recipes.

Black pepper

Black pepper
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Perhaps an even more ubiquitous ingredient than garlic or onions, black pepper is an everyday seasoning that most people have in their spice drawers that can also contribute to heartburn and acid reflux.

Spicy food

Spicy food
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Spicy foods, such as wings coated in the world's spiciest hot sauces or Sichuan hot pot, are chronic causers of acid reflux. Spicy foods often contain a compound called capsaicin, which can slow the rate of digestion. They can also irritate an already inflamed esophagus on the way down.

Chocolate

Chocolate
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Chocolate is among the foods you should eat every day thanks to its many health benefits. However, if you struggle with acid reflux and heartburn, it should be consumed sparingly. It is loaded with both fats and caffeine, two major triggers.

Soups and salad dressings

Soups and salad dressings
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Soups and salads are among the so-called “healthy” foods you might actually need to avoid. Salad dressings can be full of cream and oils, which trigger acid reflux. Many popular soups also have cream, cheese or tomato as the base, which all increase reflux and thus should be avoided.

Potato chips

Potato chips
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High-salt foods can not only put your blood pressure through the roof, but they can also cause acid reflux. Salty snacks such as potato chips and pretzels should be avoided.

Fried foods

Fried foods
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French fries, tots or onion rings are some of the most-loved fast food items. Unfortunately, fried foods are some of the biggest culprits behind acid reflux. According to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, people with frequent heartburn or acid reflux should avoid fried foods and limit their consumption of fats and oils to three servings per day.

Mint

Mint
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While some herbs and spices can help soothe inflammation, there’s one that can actually make things worse. Mint, and even products with mint flavoring, is a common acid reflux trigger.

Alcohol

Alcohol
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Instead of choosing a cocktail other than a mojito to avoid reflux-triggering mint, it’s best to avoid alcohol altogether to prevent heartburn and other symptoms. Alcohol not only relaxes the sphincter valve, allowing more acid back into the esophagus, but it also stimulates acid production in the stomach. If you’re trying to avoid acid reflux triggers, opt for one of these delicious mocktails instead.

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