If you suffer from problems due to stomach acid, you might have asked yourself, “Does milk help heartburn?” at one time or another. Unfortunately, if you’re talking about whole milk, at least, the answer is “no.” Whole milk may actually make acid reflux worse.
Here is a brief look at stomach problems such as acid reflux, heartburn, and GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), and the role that milk could play in worsening symptoms.
What Is Acid Reflux?
Have you ever experienced a burning sensation in your chest or throat when you lie down? If so, that’s probably acid reflux at work. Acid reflux is nasty. It starts when stomach acid flows into the esophageal tube. This can lead to a sore throat, a feeling of acidity in the mouth, and other issues.
One of the possible reasons that heartburn and reflux occur starts with a muscle known as the lower esophageal sphincter. This muscle separates the esophageal tube from the stomach.
When you eat, food goes down the esophagus. The lower esophageal sphincter opens so that food can get into the stomach and, eventually, into the rest of the digestive tract.
But sometimes, the sphincter will stay open, allowing gastric acid to back up into the esophagus. That’s known as reflux. When acid reflux occurs, that’s when you experience symptoms.1
If you’re experiencing symptoms of acid reflux, speak with your doctor. They will be able to help come up with a plan for targeting your symptoms.
Causes Of Reflux?
Scientists haven’t been able to pinpoint a specific cause of reflux. People with a condition known as a hiatal hernia are more prone to experiencing symptoms. This occurs when a portion of the stomach moves into the lower portion of the chest.2
Some research indicates that bacterial overgrowth in the digestive tract could help contribute to reflux symptoms.3
How Might Milk Affect The Lower Esophageal Sphincter?
Some people think that drinking milk helps to bring heartburn relief. There are some who even think it can prevent heartburn entirely. Unfortunately, evidence indicates that’s not the case. Here’s a look at why.
One of the main triggers of the symptoms of acid reflux and GERD is fat. Eating a high-fat diet can increase your chances of suffering issues related to stomach acid. People suffering from this problem often complain of problems after eating foods with a high amount of fat.
Studies show a clear link between a diet filled with fatty foods and GERD. The reason is that fat reduces pressure on the lower esophageal sphincter.
This increases the rate at which the sphincter relaxes. As a result, that also increases the chances of reflux.4
The combination between fat and reflux is not limited to foods. Beverages with high-fat content can lead to a relaxing of the sphincter as well. Just one 8.5-ounce glass of cow’s milk (244 g) contains a whopping 12 percent of the daily recommended value of fat.5
Low Fat Cottage Cheese, Almond Milk, And More: Can Other Dairy Products Affect Heartburn And GERD?
If you are experiencing acid reflux but just love milk and other dairy products, there are some alternatives. You might, for example, stick to drinking low-fat milk, skim milk, or even almond milk. Eating low-fat sour cream (or better yet, non-fat sour cream) and low-fat cottage cheese could also help you avoid reflux symptoms.
Experts advise people with reflux symptoms to avoid dairy products that could upset their stomach altogether. These include cheddar cheese, ice cream, and cheeses high in fat and butter. This list, of course, also includes whole milk (and yes, whole chocolate milk).8
Although opting for low fat or fat free options at the grocery may help, consult with your doctor before making any changes to your diet.
Talking To Your Doctor About Excess Stomach Acid, Heartburn, And Reflux
Some people suffer reflux symptoms on a temporary basis, such as experiencing heartburn during pregnancy. For others, it can be an everyday occurrence.
Again, be sure to talk with your doctor before trying any sort of home remedy or changing your diet. They will be able to tell you whether or not these remedies will be safe for you to try. They may also recommend a carefully formulated heartburn relief product.
Play It Safe
Please don’t ignore reflux symptoms – especially if you have problems with stomach acid on a regular basis. The hydrochloric acid in your stomach is powerful. Repeated episodes of reflux can be dangerous to your digestive health. Signs of a severe problem include blood in the vomit, difficulty swallowing, and sudden weight loss.9
A doctor can perform a thorough examination to get to the root of the problem.
Milk: Friend Or Foe?
Unfortunately, the evidence shows that milk can worsen reflux symptoms, rather than soothe them like many people think. There are, however, plenty of alternatives to milk and other high-fat dairy products.
Your physician may recommend other things you can do to potentially reduce heartburn symptoms.
Do what you can to keep those gastric juices in check, so that you can avoid these miserable symptoms.
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