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Home / Acid reflux and heartburn / Foods that Help Acid Reflux and Heartburn: The Ultimate Guide

Foods that Help Acid Reflux and Heartburn: The Ultimate Guide

Learn about the foods that naturally combat acid reflux and heartburn

Do you suffer from acid reflux or heartburn? If so, you're not alone. Many people struggle with these conditions on a daily basis.

Acid reflux is caused by problems with the valve at the entrance of your stomach known as the LES (lower esophageal sphincter). Typically, the valve closes as soon as food has passed through your oesophagus and into your stomach to prevent the regurgitation of stomach contents (stomach acid, digestive enzymes and bile).

However, for those with acid reflux, the valve does not close properly which allows these stomach contents to travel back up. This causes a burning sensation in your throat and chest pain behind the breastbone, known as heartburn. Other symptoms of acid reflux include feeling nauseous, bad breath, a dry cough, bloating and belching (indigestion).

The condition is most common in pregnant women or those with a high BMI, as the excess weight causes pressure on the abdomen, forcing acid back up. Diet also has a major influence. If you frequently eat heavy meals or certain foods, the condition can worsen. This can lead to a chronic weakening of the LES, potentially resulting in complications such as a condition known as GORD or GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease). Unlike occasional heartburn, symptoms of GERD tend to be more persistent and serious such as having difficulty swallowing or a chronic cough.

The good news is that there are foods that can help and lifestyle changes you can make! In this article, we will discuss the best food options for those who want to improve their acid reflux and heartburn symptoms. So, read on for all the information you need to start building your perfect acid reflux diet.

Which foods are bad for heartburn and acid reflux?

Before we discuss the best foods for acid reflux and heartburn, let's take a look at some of the foods that can cause acid reflux.

Here are some acid reflux foods to avoid:

  • spicy foods - chilli peppers, curry powder, and other spicy seasonings
  • acidic foods - tomatoes, citrus fruits (e.g grapefruit), garlic and vinegar
  • fried foods - fried chicken, french fries, and doughnuts
  • fatty foods - cakes, pastries and fatty meat
  • alcohol - beer, wine, and liquor
  • chocolate - this sweet treat is high in fat and caffeine, both of which can aggravate symptoms
  • carbonated drinks

These foods can increase acidity levels or slow down digestion, both of which can worsen symptoms and cause you more discomfort.

A variety of unhealthy foods spread out.

Which foods can help relieve heartburn and acid reflux?

Now that you know which foods to avoid, let's take a look at the best foods for acid reflux and heartburn.These are foods and drinks to incorporate into your diet that can help soothe your symptoms and provide relief. Improving your diet overall, can also reduce your symptoms in the long-run. They also have anti-inflammatory properties, and can help with your overall digestion.

High-fibre foods

Fibre is an important nutrient in the digestive system and is essential for healthy digestion. Not only are they good for high cholesterol and heart health, but research has also linked high dietary fibre intake to reduced risk of acid reflux and GORD.

The main benefit of fibre in your diet is that the body takes longer to digest it, meaning you feel fuller for longer. This will deter you from overeating or eating heavy meals. Fibre may also directly reduce gastric acidity.

Foods rich in fibre and should be incorporated into your diet include:

  • whole grains - porridge, couscous and brown rice
  • root vegetables - sweet potatoes and carrots
  • green vegetables - asparagus, broccoli and green beans
  • legumes - beans, lentils and chickpeas
  • nuts - hazelnuts, pistachios, macadamias or brazil nuts
  • fruits - avocados, berries and apples
Assortment of foods that are high in fibre.

Alkaline foods

All foods fall somewhere on the pH scale, an indicator of acid levels. Foods that have a low pH value are acidic whilst a high pH value indicates a food is an alkaline.

Your stomach is naturally acidic to perform its role in digestion, however if you have acid reflux your stomach may have an erratically high acidity level. Eating alkaline foods will help neutralise the stomach acid and lower it to a healthier level.

Some alkaline or low-acid foods include:

  • fruits and vegetables
  • certain whole grains such as quinoa
  • unsaturated fats such as olive oil, nuts and seeds
  • herbs and spices such as cinnamon, basil, dill, parsley, thyme and tarragon
  • ginger
  • Probiotics

The final category of food that helps prevent acid reflux are probiotics. These are foods rich in good bacteria which help restore the balance of your gut flora, keeping bad bacteria at bay.

This is extremely important for overall gut health and digestion, but research has also found that this can help with acid reflux. They are also good for those who take prescription proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) for their acid reflux. This is because probiotics can counteract the increased risk of small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), a common side effect of PPI that can lead to stomach upset.

Some probiotic foods include:

  • yoghurt
  • kefir - fermented milk drink
  • kombucha - fermented black or green tea drink
  • sauerkraut - fermented shredded cabbage
  • kimchi - fermented, spicy Korean side dish
  • miso - fermented Japanese soybean paste

If you’re not a fan of fermented foods or don’t have access to them, there are plenty of probiotic supplements available over the counter.

Close up of man putting fork into assorted jars of fermented foods.

As you can see, there are plenty of foods that can help relieve acid reflux and heartburn symptoms. By incorporating these foods into your diet, you can improve digestion and start to feel better fast.

You could also try substituting foods from your diet with healthier alternatives. For instance, if you eat a lot of fatty meat, try cooking with lean meats like chicken or turkey instead. If you eat a lot of white bread or simple carbs, try incorporating more whole grains like wholemeal bread or brown rice. Simple changes can make a huge difference to your digestive health.

Do home remedies help with acid reflux and heartburn?

You should always be cautious when researching home remedies for acid reflux, as they may not be from a credible source. Some of these home remedies are infamous, but do they actually work?

Does milk help acid reflux and heartburn?

Drinking milk if you have heartburn is a commonly recommended remedy for heartburn. It is true that the contents of milk may soothe your heartburn because of its key nutrients (calcium and magnesium) and because it has an alkaline pH. However, it’s important to consider what type of milk you’re drinking.

Whole milk can actually make your acid reflux worse. This is because this type of milk is a high-fat food, therefore linked to the lowering of the LES valve and the exacerbation of acid reflux symptoms. Instead, consider a low-fat or skimmed alternative.

Clear jar and bottle of milk

Does apple cider vinegar help with acid reflux and heartburn?

Apple cider vinegar is made from crushed apples that are then fermented to turn the alcohol into vinegar. It has several health benefits and many claim it helps their acid reflux, believing it helps to neutralise stomach acid.

However, there is little if any evidence to suggest that this is the case, only anecdotal evidence. It’s also more likely to irritate acid reflux if you drink it at full concentration. If you are going to try apple cider vinegar, you should drink it diluted with a straw to protect your teeth.

Does lemon water help with acid reflux and heartburn?

Yes, small amounts of lemon juice mixed with water can have an alkalising effect which can neutralise the stomach acid.

However, it’s important to emphasise that you only need a small amount. Lemon juice has a high citric acid content which can cause and exacerbate acid reflux symptoms if not consumed in moderation.

What else can I do to prevent acid reflux?

In addition to eating the right foods, there are lifestyle changes you can make that can help with acid reflux and heartburn, including:

  • quitting smoking if you smoke
  • elevating your head when sleeping: this can help acid forming come back up
  • lose weight if needed, weight loss can alleviate the pressure on the stomach and reduce acid reflux
  • eating dinner earlier so you’re less likely to have acid reflux at night
  • wearing loose-fitting clothes so that there is no pressure from tight clothes on your stomach

You can take over-the-counter antacids as needed. They provide instant relief and neutralise the stomach acid. However, you should be careful of anything containing peppermint as although it is great for soothing the stomach overall, it can weaken the LES and trigger symptoms for those who suffer with acid reflux.

Alternatively, you can also get prescription medicines to treat your acid reflux. These medicines are known as PPIs (proton pump inhibitors), such as Omeprazole and Pantoprazole, which specifically target the cells in the stomach that produce the gastric acid. This directly reduces the excess stomach acid, and relieves symptoms.

You can purchase prescription-strength PPIs here at euroClinix. All you have to do is fill out an online consultation and, if approved, your medication will be with you the next day.

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