If you have acid reflux, you may want to avoid beverages that make your symptoms worse. Opting for nonacidic options like plant-based milks, water, herbal tea, and smoothies instead may reduce symptoms.
Acid reflux and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) can cause stomach acid to travel into the esophagus. This may result in uncomfortable symptoms like heartburn and acid regurgitation.
If you have acid reflux or GERD, certain foods and beverages can make your symptoms worse.
Symptoms of acid reflux and GERD can include:
The terms “acid reflux” and “GERD” are often used interchangeably, but they have different meanings. Acid reflux refers to symptoms that occur occasionally, while GERD is defined as the chronic reoccurrence of acid reflux.
This can happen if you have a weakened or dysfunctional lower esophageal sphincter that allows stomach acid to flow backward into the esophagus. Over time, untreated GERD can cause inflammation or damage in the esophagus.
Certain drinks may not cause acid reflux symptoms, while others may help relieve symptoms you’re experiencing.
In addition to following the beverage suggestions below, try sipping liquids instead of drinking them quickly. This can help prevent acid reflux symptoms. According to a
Beverages such as coffee, soda, and acidic juices may increase the risk or severity of reflux symptoms. So what should you drink instead? There are many options that likely will not trigger your reflux and may even help reduce symptoms.
Try using herbal remedies that may soothe GERD symptoms, such as:
Licorice can help increase the mucus coating of the esophageal lining, which may help reduce the effects of backflowing stomach acid. A 2017 study found that an herbal formula including deglycyrrhizinated licorice provided relief from GERD symptoms consistently better than common antacids.
Ginger tea has anti-inflammatory properties and can help relieve nausea, according to a
Still, there is room for more research to confirm the effectiveness of herbal teas, including fennel, marshmallow root, and papaya tea.
When using dried herbs as extracts in tea, it’s recommended to use 1 teaspoon of herbs per 1 cup of hot water. Steep the leaves or flowers covered for 5 to 10 minutes. If you’re using roots, steep for 10 to 20 minutes. For the best results, you can drink 2 to 4 cups per day.
However, you may want to avoid peppermint teas, as mint can actually trigger acid reflux symptoms in some people.
It’s also important to be aware that some herbs can interfere with certain prescription medications, so talk with a doctor before trying any new herbal remedies.
Cow’s milk can be hard for some people to digest. Whole milk can contain a significant amount of fat. Consuming full fat cow’s milk and other high fat foods may relax the lower esophageal sphincter, which can cause or worsen reflux symptoms, according to a
The same review found that fats may also reduce gastric motility, which may keep high fat foods in your stomach longer.
If you choose to include cow’s milk products in your diet, consider choosing a milk option with lower fat content.
For people with lactose intolerance or those who experience an increase in acid reflux symptoms from consuming dairy products, plant-based milk might be a good alternative. There are a variety of these products available, including:
- soy milk
- flax milk
- cashew milk
- coconut milk
- oat milk
- almond milk
Soy milk and other plant-based milks have a lower fat content in comparison to most dairy products, making them a safer choice for people with GERD.
You may notice that carrageenan is a common additive in many nondairy beverages. It is important to note that carrageenan has been linked to digestive symptoms, such as bloating, irritable bowel syndrome, and inflammation.
You may want to check your nutrition labels, as it may help to avoid this additive if you have GERD.
Citrus drinks and other beverages like pineapple juice and apple juice can be very acidic and may cause acid reflux symptoms. Juices that are less acidic are not as likely to trigger GERD symptoms in most people.
Examples of juices with lower acidity include:
- carrot juice
- aloe vera juice
- cabbage juice
- freshly juiced drinks made with less acidic foods, such as beets, watermelon, spinach, cucumber, or pear
Because tomato-based foods can trigger reflux symptoms, avoiding tomato juice may also reduce GERD symptoms.
Smoothies are a popular way to incorporate more vitamins and minerals into your diet. They’re also an exceptional (and tasty!) option for people with GERD.
When making a smoothie, include the same low acidity fruits that make up reflux-friendly juices, such as pear or watermelon. Also, try adding green vegetables like spinach or kale for added nutrients and reflux-reducing benefits.
Try putting your own spin on this simple smoothie recipe that incorporates spinach and a plant-based milk. You might even consider freezing cut-up avocados to use when making nutritious smoothies in a pinch.
The pH of most water is neutral, or 7.0, which can mildly raise the stomach’s pH. However, water can also help digestion and motility of food out of your stomach and into your small intestine. This may help reduce acid reflux symptoms.
Although this is very uncommon, too much water can disrupt the mineral balance in your body, which would increase the likelihood of acid reflux. A doctor or registered dietitian can help you navigate your hydration needs if you have any concerns.
Unsweetened coconut water can be another excellent option for people with acid reflux or GERD. This beverage is a good source of helpful electrolytes, such as potassium. It also promotes pH balance within the body, which is crucial for managing acid reflux.
Some drinks can aggravate reflux symptoms and should be avoided. Examples include certain fruit juices, caffeinated beverages, and carbonated beverages.
Citrus juices and tomatoes are highly acidic and can aggravate acid reflux.
Examples of juices to avoid for GERD can include:
- lemon juice
- orange juice
- tangerine juice
- lime juice
- grapefruit juice
- tomato juice
Citric acid, naturally present in citrus fruits, has been known to irritate the esophagus. While the stomach is made to withstand higher acidity foods, the esophagus is not. If you have acid reflux, foods with citric acid may reenter the esophagus and irritate it or cause damage.
When buying juice drinks, check for citric acid in the listed ingredients, as it’s sometimes used as flavoring. It may be best to avoid products made with citric acid to reduce the likelihood of reflux symptoms.
A morning cup of coffee is a daily habit for many, but it may trigger symptoms for those with acid reflux. Coffee can stimulate increased gastric acid secretions, making it more likely to rise to your esophagus. This results in heightened acid reflux symptoms.
The more coffee you drink, the more aggravated your symptoms can become. Other caffeinated beverages, such as sodas or caffeinated teas, can have similar effects and should be avoided as much as possible.
A 2020 study confirmed that the intake of these caffeinated drinks was linked to an increase in reflux symptoms when compared to intake of other beverages.
Alcohol can negatively affect acid reflux, regardless of whether you’re drinking a glass of wine or enjoying a cocktail. Hard liquor is more likely to aggravate reflux conditions quickly, though a glass of wine with a large or acidic meal can cause discomfort, too.
Heavy alcohol consumption may be a risk factor for developing GERD, and it could cause mucosal damage in the stomach and esophagus.
A meta-analysis of various observational studies found a significant correlation between alcohol intake and the risk of GERD. This understanding provides additional guidance for managing or preventing chronic reflux.
If you have acid reflux, it may be best to avoid alcohol consumption. However, if you plan to drink, there are a few things you can do to reduce symptoms. Drinking in moderation, staying hydrated, and avoiding acidic or carbonated drinks can help minimize your risk of symptoms.
Some people who have never experienced acid reflux before may develop acid reflux or heartburn symptoms during pregnancy. This is fairly common, and many people have decreased or no symptoms after the pregnancy is over.
Keeping a food diary to help monitor which foods aggravate your symptoms can help you avoid known trigger foods for the duration of your pregnancy.
If your GERD or acid reflux has not responded to dietary changes, other remedies and medications may offer relief.
It may be best to contact a doctor for acid reflux, especially if it’s recurring. They can prescribe a treatment plan that fits your symptoms and test for any related issues.
Over-the-counter (OTC) treatments for acid reflux can include:
- temporary use of OTC antacids, such as calcium carbonate (Tums)
- proton pump inhibitors, such as omeprazole (Prilosec) or lansoprazole (Prevacid)
- H2 receptor blockers, such as famotidine (Pepcid AC)
- deglycyrrhizinated licorice
Prescription medications for acid reflux can include:
- prescription-strength proton pump inhibitors
- prescription-strength H2 receptor blockers
In extreme cases, surgery may be an option. Surgical intervention can help reinforce or strengthen the lower esophageal sphincter. A doctor can help you navigate decisions and choose the right path of care for your individual needs.
Like with the foods you eat, it’s important to be mindful of when and how you drink beverages while trying to avoid or reduce GERD symptoms.
The following tips can help keep symptoms at bay:
- Avoid skipping breakfast or lunch, which can lead to overeating and overdrinking late in the day.
- Avoid late-night snacks or beverages that may cause heartburn at bedtime. This includes carbonated and caffeinated drinks.
- Maintain an upright position during and after eating or drinking. You may need to avoid eating for at least 3 hours before bedtime.
- Moderate your alcohol consumption, as drinking alcohol can cause reflux symptoms in some people.
- Reduce or eliminate spicy and fried foods.
- Elevate the head of your bed so gravity can help prevent acid from creeping into your esophagus while you sleep.
- Sip beverages slowly.
Many people live with acid reflux, but it’s important to note that everyone responds differently to diet adaptations.
It might take some trial and error to find what works for you, but by practicing healthy drinking habits and taking note of how your system responds to specific foods and drinks, you can reduce your reflux symptoms and improve your quality of life.