Acid reflux can be painful. Burning in the throat, pressure in the chest, tension in the stomach… The symptoms go on and on, and they often don’t truly go away until you fall asleep.
Acid reflux, otherwise known as heartburn, occurs when contents of the stomach travel back up through the esophagus. Since your stomach is so acidic, this process can result in an intense burning sensation and cause severe distress.
The condition is all too common. People who are overweight or pregnant are more likely to experience the pain, but really everyone is at risk. Even the youngest, healthiest of people can become afflicted — all it takes is one tiny trigger to set off a scorching episode.
Some foods are more common triggers than others. The last thing you want is to set yourself up for failure with a food that triggers heartburn. Get in the know about which foods you should avoid if you experience acid reflux.
It may be the greatest thing that ever happened to breakfast, but it’s one of the worst things that’s ever happened to your esophagus. The high fat content in pork and bacon makes them more difficult for you to digest, causing it to hang around in your stomach for longer. Opt for more easily digested lean meats instead.
Black pepper is a strong seasoning, and a little bit goes a long way. The more heavily seasoned a dish is, the more likely it is to cause heartburn. Avoid adding additional pepper to restaurant dishes and try cooking with other more mild spices on your own.
The bubbles from carbonated beverages expand even more inside your stomach. This puts pressure on your esophagus and can push food and liquid back up. While all carbonated drinks put you at risk for reflux, colas are particularly acidic and therefore much more dangerous.
Cheese is high in fat and made entirely of dairy — two qualities of food that slow down digestion. The slower you digest, the more likely you are to experience heartburn. Since cheese has such small serving sizes (two small cubes is the recommended serving) people often overeat it. Save yourself the stomach stress. Either skip the cheese entirely or save it for snack time when you’re not also eating a large meal.
Loaded with fats and caffeine, chocolate is a heartburn disaster. Limit your portion sizes and choose to eat your chocolate on an empty stomach rather than after dinner, when your digestion is already being taxed. Try one of these nutritionist-approved desserts instead.
This might be one reason to avoid adding an otherwise refreshing lemon to your water. Lemon, lime, oranges, and other citrus fruits are highly acidic, increasing your chance of stomach trouble. They especially put you at risk when eaten on an empty stomach. If you’re feeling hungry, an orange might not be your best choice for a snack!
Caffeine is a common trigger of heartburn, and coffee just so happens to have a lot of it. While one cup here and there won’t cause a tragic episode, guzzling three to four cups a day might. Keep your coffee cup count low and replace it with something else, like a soothing cup of tea. Just make sure you avoid peppermint tea — it’s another cause of heartburn!
People with heartburn often don’t do well with garlic. This one is difficult to avoid, since garlic is present in so many recipes and used in nearly all popular restaurant foods. Instead of attempting to cut it out of your diet, reduce the amount of garlic you use while cooking. Additionally, using a couple of whole cloves instead of a bunch of garlic powder can help to keep the concentration at a minimum. Try subbing in black garlic for an even bigger health boost.
Though many people believe mint to be a soothing food for digestion, this is a misconception. Peppermint tea won’t help if you are a common victim of acid reflux. It relaxes the sphincter muscle at the base of the esophagus, increasing the likelihood of stomach acid making its way up.
If you’re on a date and have already eaten a heavy meal that puts you at risk, play it safe and skip the mint. Try one of these foods to solve your bad breath instead.
Like garlic, the cause of this common trigger is unknown. However, many experience worsening heartburn symptoms after eating onions, especially raw. To detect whether or not you should be worried, track your intake when you experience acid reflux. You might find that onions are often the cause! If not, use this trick to peel one in less than 8 seconds.
Red meat often has a higher percentage of fat than other types of meats. Burgers and steak are big no-nos when it comes to protecting your digestion from reflux. Reducing your intake of red meat can also help to reduce cholesterol and overall intake of saturated fats.
This one is a major bummer. While indulging in a glass or two of red wine has been shown to have some health benefits, if you have acid reflux, the cons may outweigh the pros. Alcohol opens the sphincter, which is the opening at the base of the esophagus. When this is open, more food and stomach acid is likely to flow back up.
Salsa is like the trifecta of heartburn triggers: It contains tomatoes, lots of sodium, and spicy foods. All three of these factors can increase your chance of acid reflux. Dip your chips in a simple bean dip or lightened-up guacamole instead.
Like citrus fruits, tomatoes are highly acidic. They do contain healthy compounds such as lycopene, so it isn’t recommended to cut them out entirely — but if you’re already indulging in risky red meat, you might want to skip adding the tomato to your burger. Save the red vegetables for these decadent foods instead.
Eating too much all at one time makes you, well… stuffed. The “stuffed” feeling you experience is actually pretty accurate: Your stomach is filled to its brim, and it is forced to stretch to fit all of the food you’ve eaten. The stretching increases the pressure on your stomach and lower esophagus, which can cause some scathing heartburn. Luckily, these foods can help reduce heartburn, so you don’t always have to be at risk.