Generally, sugar alone doesn’t trigger acid reflux, though many foods and drinks that can trigger acid reflux contain sugar. Research suggests a potential link between sugar intake and acid reflux.

The foods that trigger acid reflux can vary from person to person. Sugar-rich foods may trigger symptoms in some people likely due to other ingredients commonly found in foods with added sugar.

Here’s what you need to know about sugar and acid reflux and which foods to avoid.

Eating sugar in small amounts and without added trigger ingredients generally doesn’t cause acid reflux symptoms. For example, pure honey, jams, and maple syrup typically won’t trigger symptoms.

But sugar found in triggering foods or combined with triggering ingredients may cause symptoms.

Because of this, you should limit or avoid:

A 2017 study found that eating sweetened desserts and beverages resulted in a 71% greater risk of Barrett’s esophagus, a condition that tends to occur in people with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) who have damage to the esophagus.

People with a high intake of sucrose and added sugar were more likely to develop Barrett’s esophagus than those with a lower intake.

Following an eating plan containing mostly foods low in added sugar may reduce your risk of GERD and also benefit your overall health.

Read more about what to eat to reduce acid reflux.

Eating fewer foods high in added sugar may potentially reduce your risk for acid reflux.

A found that people who have a high intake of sweets and desserts typically have a higher risk of GERD.

Sweets and desserts typically contain large amounts of added sugar, fats, sodium, and refined flour and lack key nutrients, such as:

  • fiber
  • protein
  • vitamins and minerals

A diet high in refined flour, refined sugar, and fat and lacking in these other nutrients can also contribute to overweight and obesity. This can also increase the risk of GERD.

Read more about which foods to avoid if you have acid reflux.

Limiting your sugar intake can help you maintain a moderate weight and reduce symptoms of acid reflux.

If you frequently eat ultra-processed foods and sugar-sweetened drinks, consider less processed alternatives. Ultra-processed foods are typically high in added sugar and low in essential nutrients.

Added sugars also typically increase an item’s overall calorie count. The 2020 to 2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that added sugar make up less than 10% of the calories you eat in a day.

If you want to reduce how much refined sugar you consume, consider using a natural substitute for refined sugar in a recipe, such as:

  • honey
  • maple syrup
  • date syrup
  • unsweetened applesauce
  • stevia

This can give your recipe some sweetness while also providing naturally occurring nutrients. However, it’s still best to keep these added sugars to less than 10% of your daily calories.

Read more about alternatives to refined sugar.

Some people can manage acid reflux with changes to their diet and eating patterns. This may include following an eating plan that focuses on:

  • vegetables
  • non-citrus fruits
  • lean meat and seafood
  • nuts and seeds
  • legumes

You can also try certain practices to reduce or prevent reflux. These can include:

  • avoiding eating late at night or before bed
  • eating smaller meals
  • avoiding smoking, or quitting smoking if you smoke
  • sleeping with your bed raised at an angle

Read more about practices that can help prevent acid reflux.

If you have acid reflux, you may find relief through lifestyle adjustments or medication.

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

Talk with a doctor if you’re concerned about persistent acid reflux symptoms. They can review your diet and help identify trigger foods. They may also run tests to determine to learn more about your acid reflux, rule out other causes for your symptoms, and determine an effective treatment plan.