Can I Eat Sugar If I Have Acid Reflux?

Medically reviewed by Deborah Weatherspoon PhD, MSN , CRNA,COI on July 5, 2016Written by Natalie Silver

sugar and acid reflux

Overview

Acid reflux is a common health condition that can cause the burning sensation known as heartburn.

You may have felt this burning sensation after eating a particular food. These foods are known as trigger foods, and they can vary from person to person.

Sugar alone doesn’t trigger acid reflux, though it’s often found in trigger foods and drinks. Here’s what you need to know about sugar and acid reflux.

Can I eat sugar if I have acid reflux?

Consuming sugar in small amounts and without added trigger ingredients generally won’t affect your acid reflux. For example, pure honeys, jams, and maple syrup typically won’t trigger your symptoms.

Sugar found in triggering foods or combined with triggering ingredients may cause symptoms to appear.

Because of this, you should limit or avoid:

  • chocolate
  • peppermint
  • citrus fruits
  • fatty foods
  • caffeinated beverages, such as coffee and tea

What the research says

Your diet can play a huge factor in both triggering and preventing acid reflux. A 2014 study reported that people with acid reflux knowingly ate trigger foods more frequently than people without acid reflux. The researchers concluded that modifying your diet provides a great opportunity for treating acid reflux without medication.

Controlling your weight can also have an impact. A study in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology reviewed several studies on acid reflux and found that weight loss reduced acid reflux symptoms.

Check out: Weight loss and acid reflux »

Risks and warnings

Limiting your sugar intake can help you maintain a healthy weight. Added sugars typically increase an item’s overall calorie count. Sugar shouldn’t make up more than 10 percent of your daily calories, according to the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

If you feel that sugar is affecting your acid reflux symptoms, you should consult with your doctor. They may ask you to keep a food diary. In the diary, you’ll note what you eat and whether you experience any symptoms after. This can help you and your doctor pinpoint whether your symptoms are caused by the sugar or other foods.

How to use sugar substitutes when cooking

If you want to cut down on your sugar intake, consider using sugar substitutes when cooking or baking. Many artificial sweeteners add little or no calories to your meal while still providing added sweetness.

Popular artificial sweeteners include:

  • Splenda
  • Sweet’N Low
  • Equal

You can also use a food substitute, such as honey or natural applesauce, in place of table sugar. This can give your recipe the sweetness it needs without the poor nutritional side effects.

What you can do now

If you have acid reflux, there are options available to treat your symptoms. Depending on your individual needs, you may be able to find relief through lifestyle adjustments or medication.

If you think sugar may be affecting your symptoms, consider:

  • keeping a food diary to track what you eat and how your body reacts
  • introducing sugar substitutes into your diet
  • removing sugar from your diet completely

Talk to your doctor if you’re concerned about persistent acid reflux symptoms. Your doctor can review your diet and help you identify trigger foods. If necessary, they can work with you to create a nutrition and weight management plan.

Keep reading: Acid reflux diet and nutrition guide »

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