7 Foods To Avoid When You Have Acid Reflux

Photographed by Alexandra Gavillet.
You first experience with heartburn isn't just painful, it's alarming — and confusing. Especially when you realize that not only did last night's glass of red wine set your reflux off, but this morning's mimosa-and-avocado-toast brunch left you downing Pepto, too. Seriously, what gives?
Well, as Felice Schnoll-Sussman, MD, a gastroenterologist at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, told us a few months ago, there are some simple things you can do at home to make your acid reflux less frequent. For starters, you'll want to learn some general guidelines for which foods can trigger heartburn.
When you have acid reflux, stomach acid is actually coming up out of your stomach and into your esophagus. So you'll want to avoid any foods that are acidic or that cause your stomach to produce more acid. That includes such delicious items as citrus fruit, fried chicken, and, ugh, wine — along with many more.
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You don't necessarily need to stop eating these altogether (I mean, come on). But if you've recently dealt with a bout of reflux and you're looking for ways to prevent more, it's worth trying to cut back on those foods or to cut them out of your diet until you feel better.
However, not everyone has the same trigger foods, and not everyone is triggered to the same degree. So it may take some trial-and-error before you figure out yours. And certainly don't hesitate to bring in the help of your doctor or a gastroenterologist on this quest. Ahead, see a few common reflux-causing foods to help you suss out which ones need to go.
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Photographed by Alexandra Gavillet.
1. Coffee

You're definitely going to want to avoid espresso-based drinks because they're generally pretty intense. But, sadly, that goes for your less-concentrated drip coffee too. The biggest issue with coffee is that the more you drink, the more acid you're exposing your digestive system to — and it's not exactly easy to stop at one cup. You can build up a tolerance, causing you to drink more and more to get the same level of alertness. But not even decaf is safe for reflux sufferers.

So the best strategy for coffee lovers is to stick to one cup, see how it goes, and switch to tea if you need a little more caffeine. Some patients still report issues with tea, but you've got a better shot with a cup of that than a latte.
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Photographed by Alexandra Gavillet.
2. Alcohol

The research is surprisingly divided when it comes to alcohol. Some studies suggest that there's no association between moderate drinking and reflux, while others show that some types of alcohol (wine and hard liquor especially) are worse offenders than others. So we'd suggest trying to cut out alcohol if you're having a reflux flareup, but don't necessarily expect doing so to be a magic bullet.
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Photographed by Andy Price.
3. Chocolate

Unfortunately, there's more than one compound in chocolate that contributes to reflux. As Health explains, we can blame the caffeine, theobromine, and fat content in chocolate for this injustice. You might have better luck with dark chocolate because it contains less fat, but many people with reflux are stuck going without chocolate entirely.
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Photographed by Janelle Jones.
4. Peppermint

If you have an upset tummy thanks to indigestion, peppermint may help calm it down because it can ease your stomach muscles and the flow of bile. But if you're dealing with reflux specifically, you should skip the mint — those same relaxation effects also act on the sphincter between your esophagus and stomach, making it easier for acid to creep its way up.
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Photographed by Jessica Nash.
5. Garlic And Onions

These two veggies are great for adding an extra flavorful kick to your favorite dishes, but they can also ramp up your reflux. Raw onions are especially notorious for increasing the acidity in your esophagus, so cook those babies if you can.
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Photographed by Alexandra Gavillet.
6. Tomato

Tomato and tomato-based products (e.g. pizza sauce) are on the naughty list, too, because they're acidic. In fact, tomatoes contain two types of acid — malic and citric acid — which can both trigger reflux on their own.
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Photographed by Ben Ritter.
7. Fried And Fatty Foods

High-fat foods of any kind are no-nos when you're battling reflux. That includes meats, cheeses, and anything fried. But, believe it or not, avocados and nuts fall into this bucket too. (This is one time when it doesn't really matter whether your fats are "healthy" or not.) So when the next burger-and-guac night pops up, you're going to have to do a cost-benefit analysis on whether it's really worth it.
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