Essential Health Info

Acid Reflux & Dietary Precautions

acid reflux

Acid Reflux

Heartburn, or acid reflux, can be a burdensome disorder that causes you to make drastic changes to your way of life. An estimated 60 million Americans endure heartburn at least once a month, while 15 million Americans experience symptoms every day. This can be caused by a wide variety of factors, but it is most notably affected by diet.

Acid reflux is caused by an increased production of stomach acids within the patient’s stomach. Due to this increase in acid production, the patient can experience a variety of symptoms, but the most common is pain in the chest or abdomen. This is caused by irritation to the tissues of the lower esophagus.

Especially as people get older, they find that certain foods may cause their acid reflux to act up more than they used to. Symptoms can range from being mildly inconvenient to life altering, even sometimes causing significant damage to the patient’s intestinal tract.  Once again, many people experience heartburn only after eating certain foods. While adopting new dietary restrictions can seem burdensome, these small changes to your diet might cause your heartburn symptoms to disappear altogether.

Diet Precautions

Patients who experience heartburn should will experience an increase acid production, or otherwise added acidity to their stomach overall. If you are having difficulties with managing your acid reflux, you might consider consulting a nutritionist or dietary consultant.  If you are experiencing indigestion everyday, you should certainly mention it to your primary care provider, as it might be linked to esophageal cancer.

Citrus Fruits & Juices

Citrus Fruits such as Oranges, Lemons, Limes, and Grapefruits are all very acidic.  Vitamin C is actually a relatively weak organic acid called citric acid. However, Vitamin C is a very important component to your immune system, especially during cold and flu season. Your local pharmacy should sell Vitamin C supplements over the counter, which might help you get around a majority of the effects.  Whether in the form of heirloom, cherry, or marinara sauce, tomatoes are a number one culprit for producing stomach acids. They are naturally acidic sometimes affecting heartburn.

Spicy Foods

Spicy foods also have a dramatic effect on the production of acids in your stomach. Capsaicin itself, the ingredient that gives pepper their distinctive burn, is an acid and only exacerbates the symptoms of acid reflux. Additionally, foods like garlic and raw onions should be avoided for the same reason.


The effects of alcohol on the stomach have a clear relationship with gastrointestinal distress, particularly with increasing the production of acid. This is true of red wine, which is especially acidic. As is the case with any substance, moderation is key. Patients have found success by simply limiting their alcohol consumption rather than avoiding it altogether. However, doctors are advise their patients to do “dietary detective work,” figure out what factors exacerbate their symptoms.

Red Wine

Although there has been a recent health craze regarding red wine’s antioxidant properties, it might be exacerbating your acid reflux symptoms. Like other Alcohols, red wine relaxes the muscles in the stomach, most importantly the lower esophageal sphincter(LES).

LES Esophageal Sphincter-

A relaxed—whether due to sleeping, alcohol, or other drug use—does not prevent acid from bubbling up into the esophagus. 


Dark and milk chocolate have been suspected to increase acid production within the stomachs of some patients, but the results have not been very conclusive. Doctors are unsure of whether it is the fat content of the product that causes acid reflux or the cocoa bean itself. However, some researchers have theorized that the methylxanthines within the cocoa bean could be the acid producer causing some patients distress. Since every person’s body is different, many doctors recommend to experiment which foods trigger heartburn. With this in mind, cutting chocolate out of your diet might be worth a try.

Additional Factors

Prescription and Over the Counter Drugs

Many Prescription and Over the Counter Drugs can make your heartburn symptoms much worse. Thanks to some new investigative reporting on the subject, there has been progress in public understanding of the risks for such drugs.  For Prescription drugs, these cause acid reflux as a side effect:

  • Tricyclic anti-depressants
  • Sleeping pills
  • Antibiotics

However, there are also Over the Counter(OTC) medications that also can make your symptoms worse:

  • Analgesics
  • Blood thinners(such as Aspirin and Ibuprofen)

As these chemicals are digested, they encourage the stomach to produce more acid. On top of this, the analgesic effect of the medication causes the muscles of the LES to relax.


Tobacco Products have a very calming effect to their user yet it is precisely the calming sensation that affects the ring muscle structure of the LES. A recent study has verified these long held theories about tobacco’s effect on acid reflux, showing a strong correlation between the two. Once again, this muscle is key to preventing acid from bubbling up into the esophagus, which ultimately causes heartburn. Additionally, the irritation that smoking causes in the trachea could also be a factor in esophageal irritation, as there is only a small wall of flesh separating the two.

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