Foods to Limit to Control Acid Reflux

Chart of Common Problem Foods for Acid Reflux

Young man drinking orange juice, close-up
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Do you find that you are getting heartburn after eating certain foods? While food isn't a problem for every person who has acid reflux, for many it is a daily concern. This is why it is important to know which foods can cause acid reflex for you and limit those foods.

The foods listed in the table below are the most common foods that can produce heartburn. This is by no means a complete list, and in your personal situation, you may either find you can eat the foods from the "Avoid" group with no problem or have problems with foods not listed.

 You can keep a heartburn or food diary to learn what are your personal "problem" foods. For approximately two weeks, write down what you eat, when you eat and any symptoms you may experience. This will help you and your doctor plans your diet and decides on any change in eating habits you may need.

Foods to Limit on the Acid Reflux Diet

Food GroupFoods To Avoid
FruitOrange juice
Lemon
Lemonade
Grapefruit juice
Cranberry juice
Tomato
VegetablesFrench fries
Onion, raw
Spicy peppers
MeatGround beef, chuck
Marbled sirloin
Chicken nuggets
Buffalo wings
DairySour cream
Milkshake
Ice cream
Cottage cheese, regular
GrainsMacaroni and cheese
Spaghetti with sauce
BeveragesLiquor
Wine
Beer
Alcohol
Coffee, decaffeinated or regular
Tea, decaffeinated or regular
Fats / OilsSalad dressing, creamy
Salad dressing, oil & vinegar
Sweets / Desserts

Butter cookie, high-fat
Brownie
Chocolate
Doughnut
Peppermint

SnacksCorn chips
Potato chips, regular
CondimentsHot sauce
Pepper
Salsa

Risky Foods for Acid Reflux

Some of the risky foods have specific effects on the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) which can result in acid reflux. Alcohol, chocolate, and peppermint all relax the LES  Tomatoes, tomato products. citrus fruits and juices, coffee, and tea are acidic and trigger acid reflux in many people.

Fatty and fried foods, especially when eaten in large meals, sit in the stomach longer and build pressure on the LES. These include meats and dairy that are high in fat. Deep-fried foods should be avoided or only eaten in very small quantities. Eating smaller meals may help reduce the risk. Combination dishes such as lasagna, pizza, or pasta with tomato and meat sauce enhance the risks from two or more foods that should be limited (tomatoes and fatty meats and cheese).

What Can You Eat?

For a listing of foods that usually cause little or no heartburn problem, check out a table of foods that have little potential to cause heartburn. For a listing of foods that you may be able to enjoy occasionally, check out a table for foods that can be consumed with discretion.

Sources:

Eating, Diet, & Nutrition for GER & GERD. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/acid-reflux-ger-gerd-adults/eating-diet-nutrition. Published November 1, 2014.

Heartburn Risk factors. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heartburn/basics/risk-factors/con-20019545. Published August 7, 2014.

Kubo A, Block G, Quesenberry CP, Buffler P, Corley DA. Dietary guideline adherence for gastroesophageal reflux disease. BMC Gastroenterology. 2014;14(1). doi:10.1186/1471-230x-14-144.

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