When you think of foods or eating habits that trigger acid reflux symptoms, some culprits may seem obvious, like inhaling half a pepperoni pizza pie a little too close to bedtime. Since unhealthy foods = digestive woes + uncomfortable consequences … right?
While that’s partially correct, other acid reflux trigger foods are a little subtler—and some of them are actually healthy.
How Certain Foods Cause Acid Reflux
“We all have what’s called a lower esophageal sphincter, which is a valve that serves as a gate to keep acid down in your stomach and prevent it from coming up into your esophagus,” says Roshini Raj, MD, a gastroenterologist at NYU Langone Health and co-founder of healthy living brand Tula.
Certain foods can cause the lower esophageal sphincter to become more relaxed. While this may sound like a good thing, it actually means that the sphincter becomes wider, which makes it easier for acid to come up into the esophagus, contributing to reflux and heartburn, says Dr. Raj.
“There are other foods that are just more acidic and because of that they cause more irritation to the esophagus,” says Dr. Raj.
Foods That Make Acid Reflux Worse
Foods can affect everyone differently, but Dr. Raj says there are main categories of foods that are often problematic for people who suffer from acid reflux.
These foods are:
Another thing that can affect your acid reflux is how you eat. “If you’re having one very large meal a day, especially if it’s a fatty meal, that’s going to sit in your stomach, take a longer time to digest, and that also makes it easier for acid to come up,” says Dr. Raj.
Dr. Raj also says that having excess weight can make acid reflux symptoms worse—and trimming down, even just 10 pounds, can make a big difference.
“Having excess weight particularly around the abdominal area really does put pressure from the stomach on the esophageal sphincter and makes it easier for acid to come up,” says Dr. Raj.
If you experience heartburn (or other acid reflux symptoms like nausea and trouble swallowing) more than twice a week, talk to your doctor about acid reflux. People who experience heartburn or other acid reflux symptoms at least two to three times a week may have gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD. Learn more about GERD here.