Acid Reflux: The Dangers and How to Lessen it With Diet

Also known as gastroesophageal reflux (GER)

Experiencing acid reflux is not enjoyable. If you have ever felt something like a knife scraping out your chest area from inside you are perhaps one of the four in ten who experience acid reflux and its close cousin, heartburn. In the United States, there is an estimated 20 percent of people affected.

It is also known as gastroesophageal reflux (GER) and is closely related to gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

acid relux

Symptoms of Acid Reflux Are

An episode of acid reflux, you will feel a burning sensation in your chest like heartburn.
Heartburn tends to be less severe, sometimes just pressure or pain in the chest area but they are both caused by the same thing: acid from your stomach acid getting past the valve in your stomach (called the esophageal sphincter) and into your esophagus.
Heartburn: a burning pain or discomfort that may move from your stomach to your abdomen or chest, or even up into your throat.
Regurgitation: a sour or bitter-tasting acid backing up into your throat or mouth”  ~ WebMD.

What is Digestion and How Does Acid Reflux Begin?

It is in the mouth where digestion begins with the teeth breaking the food into small bits and the enzyme, amylase in the saliva break down starches into simple sugars.
The stomach is the organ where digestion continues to break down the food into small particles to make it easy to absorb the nutrients.

It is the top of the stomach, where gastric acid and pepsin, a digestive enzyme begins to secrete. It is in the lower part of the stomach which is muscular where the food is mixed with digestive fluids.

Then the thoroughly mixed and liquefied food passes into the small intestine for further digestion and absorption of nutrients happens. The final stage when digestion is complete is to move on to the colon. The colon’s job is to extract the water to form a stool.

What Acid Does

Our stomach is filled with acid to help digest food and it can handle it. Your esophagus cannot handle the acid. When there is acid back up into the esophagus, it causes a burning sensation known as acid reflux or heartburn.

How Acid Reflux Begins

The way acid reflux starts is when the sphincter muscle at the lower end of the esophagus relaxes at the wrong time and allows the stomach acid to back up into the esophagus.

“Heartburn: An uncomfortable feeling of burning and warmth occurring in waves rising up behind the breastbone (sternum) toward the neck. It is usually due to gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), the rise of stomach acid back up into the esophagus. Heartburn has nothing whatsoever to do with the heart.” ~ Medical Net

This condition is not just very uncomfortable.

If it persists the acid can damage both the valve (which can cause more of the same symptom) or it can damage the esophagus itself.

There are 2 ways to approach this.

acid reflux
Medication, the short term way
  1. The short term solution for getting rid of the discomfort, which can include medication but it does not stop it from being there.
    In our world today, the drug industry is thriving.  The medication treatment of acid reflux is mostly to suppress the acid. That will, in fact, stop digestion being thorough. The drugs used are rarely a good solution.
  2. Longer more holistic approach, which can include learning how to improve digestion and the use of herbs that can heal. To learn what works food wise and what does not.

Lifestyle Changes Can Help Reduce Acid Reflux Symptoms

Here are a few:

  • Don’t wear tight clothing around your abdomen as that can push acid up into your esophagus. Best to wear loose-fitting clothing around your abdomen.
  • Don’t lay down after meals, stay upright for 3 hours. Best not to recline or slouch when sitting.
  • When sleeping, raise the head of your bed 6 to 8 inches by safely putting blocks under the bedposts. Just extra pillows won’t help.
  • Lose weight, if needed.
  • Quit smoking and avoid second-hand smoke.

Acid Reflux Diet – Foods to Avoid

This standard list of foods is high in fat and protein foods that stay in your stomach a long time which increases the chances of building up acid.  Other foods are known to stimulate or irritate the stomach.

Unhealthy Potatoes
Deep fried potato chips

Main Foods to Avoid

  • Deep-fried foods such as french fries and onion rings are some of the worst foods.
  • Coffee and tea (caffeinated and decaffeinated)
  • Alcohol (even wine) as it relaxes the sphincter valve and also stimulates the production of acid in the stomach.
  • Soda (pop) and all carbonated beverages as the bubbles will expand in the stomach, which creates pain and pressure.
  • Citrus fruits and juices like oranges and grapefruit are high acid citrus fruits.
  • Chocolate is high in stimulants, caffeine, fat and cocoa, all increase reflux. Sorry, even healthy chocolate is a problem here.
  • Tomatoes and tomato-based foods, including ketchup, tomato soup and pizza. They are naturally high in acid, to begin with.
  • Peppermint is surprisingly an acid reflux trigger.

Other foods that people have found to increase the problem are:

  • Oils and high-fat foods, which may cause the sphincter in the stomach to relax.
  • High quantities of salt.
  • High-fat meats like beef, pork, and lamb stay in the stomach longer and it is high in cholesterol and fatty acids.
  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Spicy food can be very irritating to the stomach.
  • High-fat dairy products as they take longer to digest.

Note:  Everyone is different and everyone will respond differently to these foods.

Acid Reflux Diet:  Best Foods to Eat

Oatmeal Porridge
Oatmeal Cinnamon Porridge & Sultanas
  1. Whole grains: quinoa, millet, oatmeal and brown rice top this list.
    Here are a few grain recipes:
    How to Cook Quinoa
    Millet Porridge – Vegan & Gluten-Free
    Perfect Oatmeal Porridge
    Brown Rice vs White Rice: Benefits and Cautions
  2. Ginger – history of anti-inflammation and digestive regulatory.
  3. Salads – (without the tomatoes and high-fat dressing)
    Radish Quinoa Salad
    Delicious Radish Arugula Quinoa Salad

    A few salad recipes:
    Delicious Radish Quinoa Salad with Arugula
    Delightfully Delicious Wild Rice Salad
    Simple Nutritious Spinach Salad with Sunflower Seeds

  4. Banana
  5. Melon
  6. Fennel
  7. If you are not vegan: Chicken and Turkey (low fat) or Fish and seafood
  8. Greens and Roots
  9. Celery
  10. Parsley

Note: As before individual response may vary.

Very Short Term Reliefacid reflux

1. Over-the-counter heartburn medications such as antacids (work for 1-2 hours)

2.  Some medications like Proton pump inhibitors can prevent acid production altogether but have significant side effects.

Antacids are the 3rd most common over the counter drug at 2.3 Billion (2012 – US) while the 6th most prescribed drug – Generic Prilosec (53.4 million prescriptions) is also an antacid. You can skip the drug industry with a home remedy of 1/2 teaspoon baking soda in water. Strangely enough (since it is acidic),  apple cider vinegar has also been found helpful for quick relief.

Lifestyle Changes

  1. Don’t eat anything two hours before you go to bed especially if your acid- reflux is related to lying down. Eating late-night snacks create lots of gas.
  2. Try eating four to five smaller meals during the day instead of large meals.
  3. Eat more alkaline-forming foods. Learn 10 Tips for Creating Alkaline Balance
  4. Lie with your chest and head slightly elevated (use pillows or tilt the whole bed).
  5. 5 Tips to Improve Your Digestion and Health 

If you do get nauseous check out this article:
Learn How to Get Rid of Nausea With These Natural Remedies 

acid reflux

Long Term Lifestyle Changes

Lose Weight

The best advice regular medicine has for acid-reflux suffers is to lose weight since being overweight compresses the stomach and increases the tendency of the stomach acid to be forced into the esophagus.

This is easy to say but the problem is that if people knew HOW to lose weight easily; they would probably not be overweight and not have this acid-reflux problem in the first place.

What is needed is a long term plan to be healthy.  This will probably take care of both the excess weight and the acid-reflux and a hundred other problems.

From this perspective the avoid list is mostly foods you should avoid whether you have acid reflux or not and the good reflux foods are mostly foods that you can eat with pleasure, whether it’s weight loss you wish or to look younger.

burning stomach - leaky gut syndrome

Improve Your Digestion

Holistic health practitioners have been telling us for years just how dangerous the antacids and acid-blocking medications are.

If your long term health depends upon your digestion, the LAST thing you want to do is neutralize your stomach acids or block off stomach acid completely. Even regular medicine recognizes this can cause calcium and other mineral deficiencies.

Holistic practitioners go one step further: they suggest one of the main reasons we experience acid-reflux is that our stomachs are generally LOW on acid (from a continuous stressful diet of irritating food).  The stomach gets used to this and creates a smaller buffer against the acids so that when the stomach is finally shocked into secreting more by obvious irritants like alcohol and caffeine, then the system is overwhelmed.

Diana in kitchen

My Own Story

For most of life, I had very strong acid reflux. It started in my teens when the doctor gave me a yellow pill to take. Later I discovered that it was important to watch what I ate. Most of what is on the list of ‘Foods to Avoid’ is what I naturally avoided.

The problem is I had no idea what was creating this problem so it continued to worsen to the point of being in extreme pain from almost everything I ate.  Many nights saw me propped up with pillows as I was unable to lay down.

One night the pain was so intense it resonated throughout my whole digestive system from the appendix area to my heart. The fear was that I was either having an appendicitis attack or a heart attack so we called the doctor who came to my bedside in the middle of the night.  Fortunately, it was neither.

The way I dealt with this was to limit all foods that caused any intense pain after eating it.

That meant there were only twelve foods that were possible.  Even worse than that – those twelve foods did not all work every day.

Finally, I went to a clinic for six weeks doing a major detox and slowly introducing foods back in.  I left the clinic able to eat 12 foods every day without any problem ever!!! That was a breakthrough.

What were these foods? All were alkaline-forming foods except for one and many were watery. I would eat lots of watermelon all year long. Watermelon, celery, romaine lettuce, zucchini, blueberries, a little fresh orange juice, fish, a small bit of avocado, a little well-cooked potato, and I drank lots of vegetable juice. When these were part of the vegetable juice ingredients: carrots, bean sprouts, and apples.

Here is the recipe for my favourite vegetable juice: Perfect Vegetable Juice

Finally, after years of extreme indigestion, I did get my digestive health back thanks to specific testing telling me about my food sensitivities and products to nourish me back to health.  The good news is that it worked!  I am happy to say that I can eat almost everything now except chemical additives in food and that I believe is my body’s intelligence.

My experience led me to research and learning from a natural doctor to heal my digestion. I wrote two e-books focusing on this.

This is my first book which goes into detail and has recipes in it too.

Green Means Lean E-Book – Teaches you how to balance your body’s pH simply and easily.  Learn about Acid-Alkaline Balancing for a healthier body.

Also, you will learn the principles of ‘Food Combining’  properly for the best digestion and slimness.

Later I created this one just on the alkaline-producing diet.

alkaline diet ebook cover

Alkaline Diet Principles E-book – Acid / Alkaline Balance

Learn how an alkaline diet can easily and permanently create a fundamental chemical balance in your body that supports energy, weight management, healing and total fitness.

Contains the full description of the acid/alkaline balance and understanding.

Price: $7

And then a course to help with good digestion:

Healthy Lean BootCamp: Food Combining & Alkaline Balance for Regeneration & Healthy Slimness

Diana Herrington

Diana has been writing about natural health and wellness for over 20 years. Having used foods to heal her own body, she now shares her wisdom with others.

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  • Very rarely have I experienced ‘heartburn’. However since I began eating a totally RAW
    diet, it has not recurred in two years.
    I am of a mature age.

  • I found relief by using apple cider vinegar when I had reflux,just a tablespoon in a glass of water,I have now since improved my diet,eating more raw,cutting out processed foods,combining my food better and most of all slowed down my eating and chewing more,that is chew until it is liquid before swallowing.

    • Thanks Linda. Yes! Apple cider vinegar works… even though you would THINK it would increase acidity and cause more problems, but many people swear by it!

      And everything else you mentioned (chewing, food combining) is what we all should be doing for better digestion and health.

  • Thankyou for sharing this post. I first had acid reflux through wine a few years ago, for which I experienced a pain in my chest. I was also a regular late eater which also contributed to reflux.

    I’m currently undergoing life style changes to reduce my reflux and to loose weight for which I am overweight by a stone- by losing this can only be but beneficial. I want to look at the holistic approach to sorting my gerd for good rather than through the medication route.