Heartburn is that all-too-uncomfortable sensation of your stomach acid rising into your esophagus. What generally happens is that the small band at the base of your esophagus (it's called the lower esophageal sphincter) opens to allow food and drink to flow into your stomach, but if it becomes weakened or unexpectedly relaxed, the gastric juice can end up flowing back up into your throat. Lovely, we know. Since the purpose of gastric acid is to break down and digest food, this is not a pleasant experience for the more delicate tissue lining your esophagus, which is not designed to deal with this level of acidity. Other side effects include chest pain, difficulty swallowing, chronic coughing, or that feeling of having a frog in your throat. Again, lovely.
If you have acid reflux, it's important to watch the foods you eat—some foods can actually trigger acid reflux and cause heartburn, which, as we established earlier, is not a fun sensation. To find out which foods are most triggering, we turned to the experts.
Well, this is a major bummer—especially if you're a serial coffee drinker. Caffeine can "loosen the sphincter at the distal esophagus and worsen heartburn," explains Peyton Berookim, MD, FACG, a double board-certified gastroenterologist. In other words, it makes it easier for acid to come up and cause discomfort.
Tomatoes, Tomato Products, and Onions
"Although they are healthy in general, these vegetables can trigger symptoms in certain people," says Josh Axe DNM, CNS, DC, founder of Ancient Nutrition and DrAxe.com and author of Keto Diet. This is especially true when they are eaten in large amounts, he explains.
Alcohol, alas, is another heartburn trigger. "It increases the production of stomach acid and makes your esophagus more sensitive to stomach acid," says Danine Fruge, medical director at Pritikin Longevity Center. "Drinking alcohol can also lead to making less healthy food choices and eating foods you know can trigger your heartburn."
Put down the Pamplemousse La Croix—carbonation is enemy number one if you have acid reflux. "The bubbles of carbonation expand inside the stomach, and the increased pressure contributes to reflux," Fruge explains.
"Fried and fatty foods can cause the lower esophageal sphincter to relax," Fruge says. As you'll remember from above, this causes stomach acid to rise.
"Mint products seem to make symptoms worse because they lower pressure in the esophageal sphincter," Axe explains. In layman's terms, there's not enough pressure to keep your stomach acid where it belongs: in your stomach.
"Spicy foods are known to worsen the burning sensation associated with acid reflux in some patients," Axe says. Spices will affect everyone differently, so it may take a bit of trial and error to determine which spices—and at which levels—exacerbate your acid reflux.
Opening Image: Gian Cescon/Unsplash