11 Worst Foods for Triggering Nightmarish Acid Reflux

Acid reflux is the worst! Especially when you don’t understand (or ignore) what foods trigger it. There are over-the-counter and prescription medications that help with the symptoms, but those are not a good long-term (if any) solution.

Taking Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs)

Omeprazole acid reflux medication
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Did you know that studies have demonstrated that taking Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs) long-term for acid reflux significantly increases your chances of developing dementia?

PPIs include Omeprazole (Prilosec), Esomeprazole (Nexium), Lansoprazole (Prevacid), Rabeprazole (AcipHex), Pantoprazole (Protonix), Dexlansoprazole (Dexilant), and Zegerid.

As someone who has frequent acid reflux issues, that is scary. Add to it that my father had acid reflux and was on Prilosec every day for decades before receiving his dementia diagnosis, and it becomes terrifying and enraging.

So you have to ask yourself: What is more important? Eating your favorite trouble foods by popping a daily PPI that allows you to, or making the necessary dietary changes that enable you to eat without the need for them?

1. Spicy Foods

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Spicy foods, like hot peppers and curries, are notorious for triggering acid reflux. Coincidentally, they are my favorite (shakes fists at the sky)! A good spicy Kun-Pao chicken or Thai Yum Neau salad is food heaven to me.

However, spicy foods are one of the biggest offenders of acid reflux. Capsaicin, the active component of the deliciousness, can relax the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), allowing stomach acid to flow back into the esophagus, leading to heartburn and extreme discomfort.

2. High-Fat Dairy Products

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High-fat dairy products, such as whole milk and cheese, can also relax the LES and contribute to acid reflux symptoms. So, opt for low-fat or fat-free dairy options if you’re looking to minimize the risk of heartburn. But be mindful of fat-free options, as they tend to be loaded with extra sugar.

3. Carbonated Beverages

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As a long-time soda drinker, it can be difficult to abandon. But carbonated drinks are terrible for acid reflux. They can increase stomach pressure, causing stomach acid to flow back into the esophagus, triggering acid reflux. So, to minimize the risk, it’s best to opt for non-carbonated beverages. In other words, drink your water, folks!

4. Citrus Fruits

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Drink your water, but don’t add citrus fruits! Citrus fruits, including oranges, lemons, and grapefruits, are naturally acidic. Consuming these fruits, whether whole or in juice, can increase stomach acidity and exacerbate acid reflux symptoms.

However, John Hopkin’s Medicine reports that adding a little lemon in water with honey has an alkalizing effect that neutralizes stomach acid. Lord, make it make sense!

5. Tomatoes and Tomato-Based Products

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Say goodbye to red pasta sauces! Man, I LOVE spaghetti. But it does not love me. Tomatoes are highly acidic; tomato-based products such as pasta sauces and ketchup can lead to acid reflux. The acidity in these foods can worsen irritation in the esophagus.

6. Coffee

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Don’t kill the messenger! Did you know that coffee is horrible for people with acid issues? Caffeine in coffee and other caffeinated drinks like tea and soda can relax the LES, contributing to acid reflux symptoms. This is especially problematic for those prone to heartburn.

7. Chocolate

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Chocolate is a triple threat, containing fat, caffeine, and theobromine. Theobromine is the principal alkaloid of the cacao bean. It is extracted from the bean husks and used to synthesize caffeine. Not only does chocolate relax the LES, but the high-fat content can also lead to discomfort like heartburn.

8. Peppermint

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While peppermint is known for its soothing properties, it can have the opposite effect on acid reflux. Peppermint can relax the LES, allowing stomach acid to flow back into the esophagus and cause irritation.

9. Fried and Fatty Foods

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It should be no surprise that fried and fatty foods, such as fried chicken and French fries, are terrible offenders. They aren’t healthy in any way, shape, or form. They are slow to digest and can put pressure on the LES, leading to acid reflux.

10. Onions and Garlic

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Onions and garlic are some of the most delicious seasoners for your favorite foods. However, they’re known to cause digestive discomfort. They can relax the LES and promote the backward flow of stomach acid, leading to acid reflux.

11. Alcohol

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Alcohol is horrible for many reasons, and unsurprisingly, it makes acid reflux worsen. Like the other offenders on the list, it relaxes the LES. It also increases stomach acid production, significantly contributing to acid reflux. Whether it’s beer, wine, or hard liquor, all forms of alcohol can lead to discomfort for individuals with Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

So What Can You Eat?

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Plenty of delicious foods are good at preventing (and relieving) bouts of acid reflux. Remember, as with most everything in life, moderation is key.

10 Deliciously Helpful Foods To Combat Acid Reflux and Heartburn

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Do you suffer from acid reflux? You’re not alone. About 20% of the population has gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), a chronic acid reflux condition diagnosed by a doctor.

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Elizabeth Ervin is the owner of Sober Healing. She is a freelance writer passionate about opioid recovery and has celebrated breaking free since 09-27-2013. She advocates for mental health awareness and encourages others to embrace healing, recovery, and Jesus.