If you’re getting a burning sensation from the foods you’re eating, there is a chance that they are triggering acid reflux. Read on to learn possible reasons why acid reflux occurs, triggers of stomach issues, and changes you can make to your diet.

As always, talk to your doctor about your discomfort before making any changes to your diet or lifestyle. They will be able to give you more comprehensive advice based on your unique needs.

What Causes Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)?

When you eat, and food gets into the digestive tract, the production of stomach acid is stimulated. Stomach acid is essential for proper digestion. There is a muscle at the end of the esophageal tube known as the lower esophageal sphincter. This muscle seals the space between the esophagus and stomach.

But when that sphincter is weakened, the seal becomes compromised. This allows stomach acid to move upward into the esophagus, causing discomfort.

That’s why people with issues such as heartburn and GERD will typically experience symptoms such as sore throat and intra-abdominal pressure.

Researchers know the “how” behind GERD, heartburn, and other problems that lead to reflux. But they’re not sure about the “why.”1

Stomach Acid Reflux And Diet: Are Certain Foods And Drinks Making Things Worse?

What is known is that there are certain foods – ones that are probably a part of your everyday diet – that can potentially cause gastric acid to overwhelm the esophageal sphincter. Let’s take a look at a few of them.

Fatty Foods

foods that trigger acid reflux | Westwood WellnessUnfortunately, there are a lot of otherwise healthy foods that can cause stomach issues like heartburn and GERD. Your diet might be one of the reasons you’re experiencing symptoms. Avocados and nuts are just a couple of high-fat foods that may lead to reflux problems.2You know the other usual high-fat suspects – whole butter, fatty meats, bacon, etc.

One possible reason is that a diet in fatty foods stimulates a hormone known as cholecystokinin, or CCK. CCK has been shown to relax the esophageal sphincter, which can lead to reflux.3

Cow’s Milk

Yes, a staple of the diet of millions of people may also be contributing to reflux symptoms.4 Some studies suggest that consuming whole milk could stimulate the production of stomach acid. There is some evidence that the fat in whole milk could be the reason.5


Research indicates coffee, one of the most popular beverages, could play a role in relaxing the lower esophageal sphincter.6 As you know, this can increase the chances of stomach acid moving into the esophageal tube.7,8

foods that trigger acid reflux | Westwood WellnessCitrus Juices

In one study, nearly 70 percent of participants experienced discomfort after drinking orange juice.10 In another study, a majority of participants had symptoms after drinking either orange or grapefruit juice.11 Researchers don’t know why this is the case.12

Other foods and drinks that may be associated with reflux include carbonated drinks, tomato-based foods, and more. If your lifestyle includes alcohol consumption, that could also increase your risk of experiencing reflux.

Things to Try in Place of the Foods That May Trigger Acid Reflux

There are, thankfully, some healthy, delicious foods in your diet that you could substitute for ones that might be causing problems.

Instead of fatty foods – Instead of going to your nearest fast-food restaurant to grab a burger, consider having a meal that includes lean meats and leafy greens instead. If you eat chicken, get rid of the skin. Go for low-fat alternatives such as a low-fat salad dressing. Stay away from hot dogs, fried foods and refried beans.

Instead of high-fat cow’s milk – Low-fat and fat-free milk, as well as coconut and almond milk are good alternatives. There are low-fat versions of yogurt and cottage cheese you could consider if their higher fat counterparts give you problems.13

Instead of coffee – You might try taking a break from coffee. There is evidence that alkaline water (water which is low in acid) could help reduce stomach acid and help you avoid reflux issues. You can probably find alkaline water in your local health food store or online.14 Low acid coffee may also help to reduce reflux in people with sensitive stomachs.

Instead of citrus juices – Try apple juice or make a banana smoothie. You might also consider giving carrot juice a try if you’re feeling a little adventurous.

foods that trigger acid reflux | Westwood Wellness

Other Foods to Consider If You Have Acid Reflux Problems

  • Leafy greens – There are a lot of vegetables that are alkaline rather than acidic. These include kale, spinach, brussels sprouts, and others. These vegetables are not only low in acid, they’re extremely healthy.
  • Bananas – Bananas can coat the esophageal tube, lowering the chances that it will be irritated by stomach acid.
  • Melons – Melons are non-citrus fruits that have an average pH level of only 6.1. The very acidic end of the pH scale is 1.0 (battery acid falls into this range). So you should be able to eat melons and not have to worry that they are triggering reflux symptoms.15

Stomach Acid And Esophageal Health: Know When To See Your Doctor

If you are suffering from acid reflux that’s so frequent or severe that it’s interfering with your quality of life, you should seriously consider seeing a doctor. They can run tests to see what’s causing your problems.

One is known as an esophageal manometry test. It can detect abnormalities such as a weakened lower esophageal sphincter muscle.16

It’s important that you get medical help if you have severe acid reflux. Left unaddressed, it could lead to severe tissue damage in the stomach and esophageal tube. 

There are a lot of diet changes people with reflux try to make. You might have heard of a GERD diet or acid reflux diet. Some think the FODMAP diet (FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligo-, Di-, Mono-saccharides, and Polyols) can reduce bacterial overgrowth in the stomach – and reduce reflux symptoms as a result.17

You doctor will be able to answer any questions you may have about acid reflux and whether or not these diets will be safe or beneficial for you.

Learn More:
Could Your Sleeping Position be Giving You Nighttime Heartburn?
Ginger for Digestion: How To Make Ginger Tea
Home Remedies for Heartburn Relief

1 https://www.aboutgerd.org/introduction-to-gerd/causes-of-gerd.html
2 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17229224
3 https://gut.bmj.com/content/36/1/39
4 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20168057
5 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7806034
6 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7002705
7 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16722996
8 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7918922
9 https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/15530-lifestyle-guidelines-for-the-treatment-of-gerd
10 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20168057
11 https://www.gastrojournal.org/article/0016-5085(95)90016-0/pdf?referrer=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov%2F
12 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3946363
13 https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/15530-lifestyle-guidelines-for-the-treatment-of-gerd
14 https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/000348941212100702
15 https://www.aarp.org/health/conditions-treatments/info-2017/foods-help-acid-reflux-fd.html
16 https://www.asge.org/home/for-patients/patient-information/understanding-esophageal-manometry
17 https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/can-a-low-carb-diet-cure-reflux/