Everyone needs to eat, but for people who have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), eating the wrong thing can have painful consequences. If you’re just starting to experience GERD symptoms and you’re not sure what’s causing your symptoms, here’s a list of eight foods that are making your GERD symptoms worse.

1. Dairy

Milk and dairy products are high in fat and tend to make heartburn worse. When you have frequent GERD symptoms, like heartburn, eating high-fat dairy products like cheese can aggravate your symptoms.

Furthermore, cold dairy products like ice cream can actually numb and inhibit the lower esophageal sphincter’s function. As a result, stomach acid can backwash up into the esophagus much easier.

2. Citrus

Lemons, oranges and limes are all foods that can make your GERD symptoms worse. Grapefruit is another food you might want to avoid in order to manage your symptoms.

Why Does Citrus Give Me Heartburn?

Because citrus fruits contain high amounts of citric acid, they cause your stomach to produce more stomach acid. As a result, your stomach is more full and the chances for reflux increase. You may not experience heartburn every time you eat citrus fruits, but if you enjoy a glass of orange juice every day, you might want to moderate your citrus intake if you notice a connection between your symptoms.

3. Tomatoes

These red, ripe fruits grow quickly and are a staple in many foods. Their umami or savory flavor makes many favorite foods tasty. Pasta with marinara sauce, pizza, lasagna, stew and more benefit from tomatoes. They’re also nutritious, packing antioxidants, vitamin C, and potassium. 

However, tomatoes are also highly acidic. Just like citrus, the acids in tomatoes will increase your stomach’s acid levels.

4. Spicy Foods

Chili peppers, hot sauce, paprika, salsa, wasabi, and other spicy additives make food delicious. However, spicy foods contain a substance called capsaicin which gives them their spice. Capsaicin also causes a burning sensation on the mucous membranes in the digestive tract and increases stomach acid production

5. Coffee

An almost essential part of everyone’s day, the caffeine in coffee helps many people get their day started and maintain their energy throughout the day. However, the caffeine in coffee also impairs the contractions of the LES. A cup of coffee a day may not be enough to cause problems. However, the answer may be in how much caffeine you’re taking in.

If you drink coffee with high caffeine content and have recurring heartburn, try decreasing the amount of caffeine you drink.

6. Soda

There are two factors from soda and soft drinks that aggravate acid reflux symptoms. One, just like coffee, is caffeine content. The second is carbonation. 

Energy drinks, cola and even some citrus sodas all have caffeine. If you drink multiple caffeinated sugary drinks per day, the greater the chances are that your LES will have a hard time functioning properly. The carbonation from sodas inflates the stomach while also increasing its internal pressure. Combining the increase of pressure and the relaxant effect of caffeine on the LES, reflux becomes more likely.

7. Fried Foods

Naturally, these foods are high in saturated fats which take much longer to break down in the stomach. Fatty fried foods also slow down the digestion process. In order to break down these complex fats, your stomach will produce more acid. As a result, your stomach will become more full and increase the likelihood of reflux.

8. Chocolate

Like coffee, chocolate contains some amounts of caffeine, which relaxes the LES. Additionally, cocoa powder is another acidic substance that can increase stomach acid. Chocolate also releases serotonin when eaten. Serotonin is a mood-regulating hormone that calms stress. However, serotonin can also cause the LES to relax and increases the likelihood of acid reflux.

What Can Cause GERD Symptoms?

As you might have noticed the common factor through most of the above foods is how they make symptoms worse. Most cause a combination of either relaxing the LES, increasing stomach acid production or keeping the stomach full for too long. The above foods are not the only foods and drinks that can aggravate GERD symptoms. Additional items include the following:

Processed Foods
Pain relievers such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen and aspirin

Other medications such as alpha-blockers and calcium channel blockers can also make symptoms worse. If you suspect that one of your medications is the reason for your GERD symptoms, talk to your doctor before stopping your medication.

4 Foods That Help reduce Acid Reflux Symptoms

There are plenty of foods that can nullify or even just help you manage your GERD symptoms. Keep in mind that eating these foods is not a permanent cure. However, these foods will help you reduce your symptoms and prevent them from getting worse.

The first thing to note about foods that make GERD worse is their high-fat content, their relaxant properties, and their difficulty to digest. Once you know this, consider the foods that might be the opposite.

1. Vegetables

Low in calories, low in fat and low in sugar, vegetables are an excellent source of key nutrients. Additionally, vegetables have a high satiating factor, meaning they will leave you full and satisfied after a big meal without regrets. Vegetables are also easy to digest, which reduces the risk of a flare-up.

2. Oatmeal

A high-fiber food that can be flavored with any mix-ins, oatmeal is a good choice for any diet. Fiber promotes healthy digestion and reduces acid reflux as a result. Oatmeal, as a whole grain, also provides healthy energy levels throughout the day.

3. Ginger

This spicy root actually helps soothe upset stomachs and reduce inflammation. For most people, ginger is too strong to be eaten raw. Brewing ginger tea, drinking ginger ale, or adding ginger to a salad can help you manage painful reflux symptoms.

4. Healthy Fats

Saturated and processed fats take much longer to digest. On the flip side, your body does need healthy fats that can be found in tree nuts, avocados, olive oil and flaxseed.

GERD Treatment in Nashville

If you need treatment for acid reflux and GERD in Middle Tennessee, the surgeons and doctors at The Surgical Clinics can help. We want you to know that surgery is the last resort when treating GERD. Many cases can be adequately treated with medications that reduce stomach acid production and help the esophagus heal.

However, if these approaches do not work, we can perform surgery that strengthens the LES with either implants or surgical modification. With our access to advanced surgical techniques and resources, we also offer groundbreaking GERD treatments that many patients have benefited from.

Contact the Surgical Clinic to schedule your GERD consultation today.

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