Acid reflux happens when the contents of your stomach rise into your esophagus. This occurs when your lower esophageal sphincter (LES) relaxes and allows stomach acid to enter your esophagus.

Your doctor may diagnose you with gastroesophageal disease (GERD) if this happens more than twice a week.

Several food-related factors may contribute to acid reflux, such as:

  • the position of your body after eating
  • the amount of food you eat during a single meal
  • the type of foods you eat

You can manage each of these factors by modifying how and what you eat. Modifying your body position to an upright posture after a meal and eating smaller portions may help prevent reflux.

However, knowing which foods to avoid can be a bit more confusing. There’s still some controversy in the medical community over which foods actually cause reflux symptoms.

Despite this lack of consensus, many researchers agree that certain types of foods and beverages are best avoided to prevent indigestion, heartburn, and other symptoms of acid reflux.

Weight loss may also be helpful in reducing symptoms.

Fatty foods generally lower pressure on your LES and delay stomach emptying. This may boost your risk for reflux symptoms. To help prevent reflux, decrease your total fat intake.

Here are some high fat foods you may want to avoid:

  • french fries
  • deep-fried onion rings
  • potato chips
  • butter
  • whole milk
  • cheese
  • ice cream
  • high fat sour cream
  • high fat creamy salad dressings
  • creamy sauces and dips
  • high fat cuts of red meat, such as marbled sirloin or prime rib

Some studies have suggested that spicy foods can cause abdominal pain and burning symptoms, if you have a functional gastrointestinal disorder.

However, one study showed that regular exposure to capsaicin doesn’t produce the same discomfort as occasional exposure.

Capsaicin is the ingredient that makes chili peppers and chili powder taste spicy. Researchers noted that eating spicy foods may actually improve your GERD symptoms if you eat them on a regular basis.

Pay attention to how you feel after eating certain foods. Consider your spice tolerance when planning meals.

Fruits and vegetables are an important part of your diet. However, certain types might make your GERD symptoms worse. The following fruits and veggies are common offenders:

  • pineapple
  • citrus fruits, such as oranges, grapefruit, lemons, and limes
  • tomatoes and tomato-based foods, such as tomato sauce, salsa, chili, and pizza sauce
  • garlic and onions

If in doubt, discuss your tolerance level with a doctor. If you have access, talking to a dietitian may also be helpful in creating a diet that helps manage your condition.

Several common drinks may also trigger symptoms in people with GERD. These include:

  • alcohol
  • coffee and tea
  • carbonated beverages
  • citrus and tomato juices

With or without caffeine, coffee might promote reflux symptoms. However, some people with GERD tolerate coffee well. Pay attention to your symptoms and only consume beverages that you tolerate well.

A number of other foods and medications may cause your LES to function poorly, which can lead to GERD symptoms. For example, you may experience symptoms after consuming:

  • chocolate
  • mint, such as peppermint or spearmint
  • iron or potassium supplements
  • antibiotics
  • aspirin or other pain relievers
  • bisphosphonates
  • alpha-blockers
  • nitrates
  • calcium channel blockers
  • tricyclics
  • theophylline
  • processed foods

You may be tempted to stop taking a medication or supplement if you think it’s increasing your acid reflux or heartburn symptoms. Always talk to a doctor before stopping your current medications.

Making adjustments to your diet and eating habits can help you reduce your acid reflux symptoms and your need for antacids. It’s important to note that long-term use of antacids may result in unwanted health effects.

Antacids are intended as a short-term solution to a long term problem. Antacids quickly neutralize stomach acids for the prevention of pain associated with acid reflux, but it will not heal or treat the inflamed esophagus.

Long term effects of antacid use may include;

  • nausea,
  • diarrhea,
  • headaches
  • constipation in some people.

Antacid overuse may also cause hypercalcemia which can affect many organ systems. In addition, magnesium or aluminum build up can potentially be an issue for those with kidney disease.

Eating smaller portions and trying to stay in an upright position after meals may help. Try to avoid high fat foods, spicy foods, and certain fruits, vegetables, and beverages if they trigger symptoms.

You might also notice symptoms after taking medications or supplements. If this happens, talk with your doctor. They may be able to recommend alternate medications or strategies to help manage your symptoms.