5 Foods That May Help Fight Acid Reflux

If you're no stranger to the burning sensation of acid reflux, learn about these five foods that fight acid reflux to reduce discomfort and improve your digestive health.

By Brandi Black, RHN 

    If you've experienced acid reflux, you also understand the urgency that comes with relieving the "burn" of this digestive condition. But rather than turning to over-the-counter (OTC) medicine such as antacids, there are certain foods and natural remedies that can help relieve your pain quickly.

Acid reflux can be a daily occurrence

    60 percent of the adult Americans suffer from acid reflux at least once a year. From that number, 20-30 percent of people will have weekly recurring episodes of acid reflux.

    Acid reflux (also known as GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease) is characterized by a burning sensation in the upper part of your stomach, right in the center of your chest near your esophagus. Before we get into the best foods for acid reflux, let's take a look at what could be causing this painful digestive condition in the first place.

Common Causes of Acid Reflux

Low Stomach Acid

    The burning sensation of acid reflux suggests too much acid is being produced in your stomach, but research suggests low stomach acid may actually be a more common cause .

    You see, low stomach acid not only prevents your body from being able to properly digest the foods you eat, but it's also been shown to increase the pressure in your stomach (also known as intra abdominal pressure, or IAP) which affects your lower esophageal valve, or LES.

    Under normal circumstances, the LES acts like a "security guard" for your upper GI tract, and prevents the contents of your stomach from passing through. But when your abdominal pressure increases, it forces the "security guard" to step aside and allows stomach acid to reach your upper GI tract, where it doesn't belong.

    Potential causes of low stomach acid (a condition also known as hypochlorhydria) include frequent antibiotic use, a lack of healthy gut bacteria, a diet high in refined sugar (which depletes healthy gut bacteria), chronic stress, smoking, drinking coffee and frequent alcohol consumption.

    If you suspect low stomach acid is causing your symptoms, digestive enzymes and stomach acid (HCL) supplements may help improve digestion and promote more regular stomach acid production.

Eating Right Before Bed

Eating before you lay down can allow food and stomach acid to reach your esophagus easier. It's best for your overall wellness to eat your last meal or snack at least 2 hours before you go to bed to allow your body more time for digestion.

Food Allergies or Intolerances

    Food allergies, or intolerances, can deplete the enzymes in your stomach, which are needed to activate stomach acid production (2). As we remember, low stomach acid can increase the pressure in your stomach and allow your stomach's contents to reach your LES, which causes the signature burning sensation. 

    According to Canadian Living.com , the most common food intolerances and sensitivities are to wheat, gluten, dairy and soy, so it's worth eliminating those foods from your diet (or at the very least, tracking your food intake and occurrence of acid reflux) to see if your symptoms improve

Acidic Foods

    Acidic foods such as citrus fruits, tomatoes, hot sauce and spicy foods can also aggravate acid reflux symptoms and make the burn worse. Now, of course, the best way to get rid of acid reflux for good is to determine the underlying cause of why it's happening in the first place. In the meantime, here are 5 foods for acid reflux that help soothe discomfort and improve digestion.

    Some women experience acid reflux symptoms during pregnancy due to a fluctuation in hormones. Certain hormones can allow the LES to "relax" more often, and allow stomach acid to reach the esophagus.

5 Foods That May Help Fight Acid Reflux

1. Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar may provide acidic relief

    The acidic taste of apple cider vinegar may lead you to believe it can worsen acid reflux, but it may do just the opposite. The acetic acid in apple cider vinegar has a similar pH to stomach acid, which may help improve digestion. In fact, many sources recommend using apple cider vinegar for acid reflux before turning to OTC medications, because of its benefits for digestion. The next time you experience acid reflux, try taking 1-2 tbsp of raw unpasteurized apple cider vinegar, diluted in a glass of water. As a fermented food, apple cider vinegar also contains probiotics to further support your gut health.

2. Marshmallow Root

    Not to be confused with the fluffy white s'mores fixings, marshmallow root is an herb that's been shown to relieve acid reflux by providing a protective barrier between the esophagus and the stomach. This prevents stomach acid from reaching the LES, and may be most effective when taken before meals. Studies show that marshmallow root also soothes the stomach lining, which can further help reduce painful digestive symptoms.

3. Chlorella

Sun Chlorella tablets, granules and powder, a true superfood

    Lastly, the amazing green superfood, chlorella, may help improve overall digestive health (and therefore, symptoms of acid reflux) because of the digestive enzymes it contains. As mentioned above, digestive enzymes are needed to trigger stomach acid production- and in the case of low stomach acid causing acid reflux, improving gastric acid secretion is fundamental to help relieve the discomfort. Chlorella can be taken in the form of whole food supplements, such as tablets , granules , or powder . Sun Chlorella® uses a unique processing method called DYNO®-Mill technology, or pulverization, making it the most digestible chlorella on the market and so it's beneficial nutrients are easy for weakened digestive systems to utilize and absorb.

4. Pure Aloe Vera Juice

    Aloe vera is cooling by nature, which is why we use it to soothe a sunburn- and it has the same cooling benefits when there's an internal burn, too. Drinking aloe vera juice or aloe vera gel can help instantly "put out the fire" and soothe acid reflux. 

    Aloe vera has also been shown to reduce inflammation in the GI tract, which may help prevent acid reflux over time. Take 2-3 ounces of pure aloe vera juice 30 minutes before meals if you frequently experience acid reflux, or drink at the onset of symptoms as needed. Note: pure aloe vera juice is not to be confused with aloe vera beverages, which are found beside juices in grocery stores. Aloe vera juices are sweetened with refined sugar. Instead, look for pure aloe vera juice in the supplement section of your local health food store.

5. Ripened Bananas A banana a day keeps the reflux away?

    A banana a day keeps the reflux away? 

    Ripened bananas are said to act as a "buffer" against acid reflux by neutralizing the acidity of stomach acid when it reaches your esophagus. Bananas have a neutral pH, it won't aggravate existing symptoms. 

    As you can see, the causes of acid reflux vary, depending on the person. By including these 5 foods to fight acid reflux in your diet, you may notice an improvement in your discomfort, and strengthen your health and wellness along the way.