Can You Eat Garlic If You Have Acid Reflux?

Medically reviewed by Deborah Weatherspoon PhD, MSN , CRNA,COI on May 26, 2016Written by Chaunie Brusie, RN, BSN

garlic acid reflux

Garlic and acid reflux

Acid reflux occurs when acid from the stomach flows backward into the esophagus. This acid can irritate and inflame the lining of the esophagus. Certain foods, such as garlic, can cause this to happen more frequently.

Although garlic has many health benefits, doctors generally don’t recommended eating garlic if you have acid reflux. However, not everyone has the same food triggers. What affects one person with acid reflux may not affect you.

If you’re interested in adding garlic to your diet, you should speak with your doctor about any concerns you may have. They can talk about any potential risks and help you determine whether this is a trigger for your reflux.

What are the benefits of garlic?

Pros

  1. Garlic may lower cholesterol.
  2. Garlic may also reduce your risk for certain cancers.

People have used garlic medicinally for thousands of years. It’s a folk remedy for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and heart disease.

The bulb appears to have a positive effect on the blood vessels and may even act as a blood thinner. It may reduce the risk for certain stomach and colon cancers.

These properties primarily stem from the sulfur compound allicin. Allicin is the main active compound in garlic.

More research is necessary to determine whether there’s a solid medical basis for these proposed benefits. Limited research is available on whether there’s a direct relationship between garlic consumption and the symptoms of acid reflux.

Risks and warnings

Cons

  1. Garlic can increase your risk for heartburn.
  2. Garlic supplements can thin the blood, so you shouldn’t take them alongside other blood thinners.

Most people can eat garlic without experiencing any side effects. If you have acid reflux, doctors typically advise against eating garlic.

Regardless of whether you have acid reflux, garlic consumption carries a number of minor side effects. This includes:

  • heartburn
  • upset stomach
  • breath and body odor

Because garlic consumption is associated with heartburn, it’s thought to increase the likelihood of heartburn in people with acid reflux.

You’re more likely to experience side effects, particularly heartburn, if you eat raw garlic. Supplemental intake, especially at high doses, may result in nausea, dizziness, and facial flushing.

Garlic supplements can also thin your blood, so they shouldn’t be taken in combination with warfarin (Coumadin) or aspirin. You should also avoid taking garlic supplements before or after surgery.

Treatment options for acid reflux

Traditionally, acid reflux is treated with over-the-counter medications that either block stomach acid or reduce the amount of acid your stomach will produce. This includes the following:

  • Antacids, such as Tums, can neutralize stomach acid for quick relief.
  • H2 blockers, such as famotidine (Pepcid), don’t work as quickly, but they can reduce acid production for up to eight hours.
  • Proton pump inhibitors, such as omeprazole (Prilosec), can also slow acid production. Their effects can last up to 24 hours.

Less commonly, doctors prescribe a medication called Baclofen to stop the esophageal sphincter from relaxing. In some severe cases, doctors can treat acid reflux with surgery.

The bottom line

If you have severe acid reflux, it's best to avoid eating a lot of garlic, especially in raw form. If you don’t want to give up garlic, work with your doctor to determine whether this is an option for you.

They may recommend that you consume small amounts of garlic and record any reactions you may have over a week’s time. From there, you can assess any symptoms you’ve experienced and identify any triggering foods.

Keep reading: Acid reflux diet and nutrition guide »

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