Acid reflux refers to the movement of acid from your stomach – where it should be – up into your oesophagus (food pipe) – where it shouldn’t be. This can cause a burning feeling in your chest and throat, also known as heartburn. That’s because the lining of your oesophagus is much more sensitive to acid than your stomach and contact with it can cause irritation to its lining.
What causes acid reflux?
There are many reasons as to why the valve at the top of your stomach, the lower oesophageal sphincter, might not work as it should to keep stomach acid in the stomach. Pregnancy, being overweight, and even stress can be factors, but a very common cause is diet-related. The foods that trigger acid reflux may be different between people but, if you suffer from acid reflux and heartburn, there are some common culprits which you may want to avoid.
Fatty foods, such as fried food, full-fat dairy, or fatty meat can all contribute to acid reflux. Firstly, they take longer to digest and so delay the stomach emptying, which is known to increase the likelihood of acid reflux. Secondly, fatty foods cause the release of a hormone called cholecystokinin (CCK). CCK causes the lower oesophageal sphincter to relax; this valve is supposed to prevent anything being regurgitated from the stomach in to the oesophagus, but may fail in this if it is too relaxed.
Saturated fats such as butter, cream and cheese, can be especially bad for acid reflux, so try to ensure that the fats you eat are healthier unsaturated ones, such as avocado or walnuts.
Citrus + Tomato
Although there is little scientific evidence to explain why, many people have noted a link between highly acidic fruits, such as tomatoes or lemons, and acid reflux.
Have you ever wondered why chocolate can put people in a good mood? Chocolate contains serotonin, a hormone that helps to regulate our mood. However, serotonin can also relax the lower oesophageal sphincter and allow acid reflux.
Although spicy food doesn’t seem to cause acid reflux in everybody, it often contains the chemical capsaicin, this can reduce the speed of digestion and so increase the chance of acid reflux.
Carbonated drinks may relax the lower oesophageal sphincter and increase the acidity of the stomach, both of which increase the risk of acid reflux.
Another substance that can relax the valve at the top of your stomach is alcohol. It can also lead to acid reflux by increasing the amount of acid that your stomach produces and, in some cases, can damage the lining of your oesophagus, making it more susceptible to irritation by regurgitated stomach acid.
Tea and Coffee
Many people report suffering from acid reflux after drinking tea or coffee. It’s often been assumed that the high levels of caffeine present in the drinks cause this, although research so far has not been conclusive.
As we’ve seen, there are a number of foods that can cause the stomach valve to relax and allow acid reflux to occur, so it’s unsurprising that changes to diet have been shown to be an effective way of reducing acid reflux. However, everybody can be affected differently and there may be foods that have not been mentioned here that might be problematic for you. Keeping a food diary can help you get to know your personal triggers and manage future bouts of acid reflux and heartburn more proactively.
If you happen to be caught unaware by acid reflux, over-the-counter treatment - such as Rennie in a liquid or tablet form are widely available in local shops and pharmacies. Remember, if you feel that you’re dealing with a more serious case of acid reflux and little seems to work, you should consult your doctor or pharmacist.
Rennie Liquid Heartburn Relief Oral Suspension. Rennie Peppermint heartburn and indigestion tablets. Always read the label.