When it comes to acid reflux, there are certain foods that are almost universally problematic.
The best strategy is to avoid them entirely. But unfortunately, they often make up over half of many people's diets.
In the 'Reflux Cookbook', authors Jamie Koufman, MD, Jordan Stern, MD, and French master chef Marc Bauer share foods they consider hazardous, based on medical literature and their experience treating thousands of patients.
Bad news for chocolate lovers: Chocolate seems to cause more reflux than any other food. It's a triple whammy:
- Chocolate contains caffeine and other stimulants such as theobromine, which cause reflux.
- Chocolate is high in fat, and fat causes reflux.
- Chocolate is also high in cocoa, and cocoa causes reflux.
Theoretically, dark chocolate isn't as bad as high-fat milk chocolate, but let's face it—all chocolate is bad for reflux.
Soda and other carbonated beverages are some of the main causes of acid reflux. The bubbles of carbonation expand inside the stomach, and the increased pressure contributes to reflux. Sodas with caffeine and those that are acidic (almost all) are even worse.
Of the beverages that were tested, Coke, Tab, and Diet Pepsi were the most acidic. All carbonated beverages can be a problem, so the authors recommend abstaining completely to avoid acid reflux.
Fried food is the single most recognized cause of reflux. It is also the food most often associated with heartburn, which is chest pain from esophageal reflux.
Deep-fried (or even not-so-deep-fried) foods are on the "bad list" because of their high fat content.
Beer, liquor, and wine are believed to contribute to reflux. Many alcoholic beverages are not very acidic. However, alcohol is believed to relax the valve at the bottom of the esophagus (where it joins the stomach), leading to reflux.
Abstain if you can; otherwise, have only one cocktail or glass of wine a day, and completely avoid acidic mixers like orange juice or soda.
High-fat dairy products
All high-fat foods cause reflux. There is no reason to believe that one high-fat butter or cheese is better than another in this regard. If you have reflux and a serious cheese habit, something has to give.
Use a small amount of these foods as flavoring, but not as main ingredients. Low fat is better than no fat.
Acid reflux is caused by high-fat cuts of meat—beef, pork, lamb—which stay longer in the stomach and increase the chance of acid reflux.
Try cutting back to a lean cut of meat and eat it only once a week.
One cup of coffee or espresso a day is fine, but people who drink coffee all day long are courting reflux—if they don't have it already.
Try switching to chamomile, which is the best herbal tea, or you can have one cup of green tea a day if it is lightly brewed.