Foods to Avoid with Acid Reflux: Your Ultimate Guide to Relief

If you suffer from acid reflux, you know how important it is to pay close attention to what you eat. Certain foods can trigger symptoms, making it essential to know which foods to avoid with acid reflux. In this article, we’ll explore the relationship between diet and acid reflux, discuss the foods that commonly cause symptoms, and offer tips on how to make lifestyle changes that can help alleviate your discomfort. Let’s get started!

The Esophageal Gatekeeper

The lower esophageal sphincter is a ring-like muscular valve that separates the esophagus and stomach. It’s a crucial part of the body’s mechanism to keep stomach acid where it belongs. When functioning properly, the esophageal sphincter opens to allow food to pass into the stomach. Next, it closes tightly to prevent stomach contents, including acid, from flowing back into the esophagus. If the esophageal sphincter stops working properly, you may begin to experience gastrointestinal problems.

What’s the Difference Between Heartburn, Acid Reflux, and Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)?

There are three different types of gastrointestinal distress caused by acid irritation in the digestive tract and esophagus:

Acid reflux

Acid reflux is a condition in which stomach acid travels up the esophagus. It’s relatively common and can lead to heartburn. Common symptoms include regurgitation, a bitter taste in the mouth, and frequent burping. While occasional acid reflux is not a cause for concern, frequent episodes may signal an underlying problem.


Heartburn is a burning sensation experienced in the chest, usually behind the breastbone, and sometimes in the throat. It’s a symptom of acid reflux, occurring when stomach acid irritates the lining of the esophagus.

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

GERD is a more severe, chronic form of acid reflux. Symptoms occur when the esophageal sphincter weakens or doesn’t function properly, allowing stomach acid to frequently re-enter the esophagus. As a result, can cause damage to the esophageal lining, leading to complications such as esophagitis, Barrett’s esophagus, and even esophageal cancer.

Foods to Avoid With Acid Reflux

When it comes to managing acid reflux, understanding the relationship between the foods you consume and your symptoms is crucial. There is a wide range of potential common triggers, and everyone’s body is different. Therefore, it’s essential to identify which foods worsen acid reflux for you and take steps to avoid them. That being said, here are some common culprits:

Foods to Avoid

High-fat foods. Greasy, fatty items like fried foods, full-fat dairy products, processed foods, and fatty cuts of meat can slow down digestion, increasing the risk of acid reflux.

Acidic foods and juices. Acidic citrus fruits like oranges, lemons, grapefruits, and their juices can irritate the esophageal lining, worsening acid reflux symptoms. Tomatoes are also naturally acidic and can trigger acid reflux symptoms. Avoid tomato-based sauces, ketchup, and tomato juice if you’re prone to reflux.

Spicy foods. Spicy meals can exacerbate heartburn and acid reflux in some individuals. If you’re sensitive to spice, consider reducing your intake or opting for milder alternatives.

Garlic and onion. These flavorful vegetables, especially when consumed raw, can trigger heartburn and acid reflux in some people.

Chocolate. Chocolate contains compounds that can relax the esophageal sphincter, allowing stomach acid to flow back into the esophagus.

Carbonated beverages. The bubbles in carbonated drinks can cause bloating and increase pressure in the stomach, leading to acid reflux.

Alcohol. Alcohol consumption can also relax the esophageal sphincter and aggravate acid reflux symptoms.

Caffeine. Coffee, tea, and other caffeinated beverages can weaken the esophageal sphincter and increase the risk of acid reflux.

Peppermint. Though often thought of as a digestive aid, peppermint can relax the esophageal sphincter, potentially worsening acid reflux.

Dairy. Whole 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.

Foods to Help Alleviate Acid Reflux

While a list of potential trigger foods is helpful, it’s just as important to know what foods might help control symptoms and soothe digestion. These foods can be part of a healthy diet:

Whole grains. Opt for whole grains instead of refined grains, as they can aid digestion and help absorb excess stomach acid. Think oatmeal, whole grain bread and pasta, and brown rice.

Fennel and ginger. These have natural anti-inflammatory properties and can be soothing to the digestive system.

Leafy greens. Vegetables like spinach, kale, and Swiss chard are high-fiber foods low in acid and can help minimize acid reflux symptoms.

Bananas and melons. These fruits are low in acid and can be a safe option for those experiencing acid reflux. However, individual reactions may vary.

Lean proteins. Choose lean meats, skinless poultry, egg whites, and fish as your protein sources. These options are lower in fat and less likely to trigger acid reflux.

Almonds. Almonds can help neutralize stomach acid and are a healthy snacking option for those with acid reflux.

Herbal teas. Opt for non-caffeinated herbal teas, such as chamomile or licorice, which can be soothing to the digestive system and help reduce acid reflux symptoms.

How a Doctor Can Help

Even if you’re keeping diligent track of habits and armed with a list of foods to avoid with acid reflux, you may still be experiencing uncomfortable or debilitating symptoms. If so, it’s important that you seek medical advice from a healthcare provider before your symptoms worsen. Frequent acid reflux can potentially turn into a more chronic condition like GERD. A provider may recommend over-the-counter medication, prescription medications, or other treatments to manage the condition and improve symptoms.

About Paige McNash, APRN, GI

Paige McNash, APRN, GI, is one of our top providers here at Florida Medical Clinic Orlando Health, seeing patients at our North Tampa Multi-specialty Campus. Originally hailing from Coral Springs, she began her career in the ER, then completed her Masters of Nursing at USF.

She looks forward to answering any questions or concerns you may have regarding your gastrointestinal health. She is board certified by the American Association of Nurse Practitioners as a Family Nurse Practitioner.



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