We all have experienced that feeling too well – right after eating a heavy meal; a fiery sensation in the lower chest often followed by a sour taste of acid reflux that causes discomfort. Well, that’s what heartburn does to you after eating specific food items.
Acidity is a common condition caused due to the reflux of food and acid from the stomach into the food pipe called the oesophagus. If you have been experiencing more frequent heartburn, it is time you throw the culprits away and instead choose alkalising food items to balance out the acid in your stomach.
What causes heartburn and acid reflux?
In an average person, the oesophagal sphincter (a muscular band that lets food pass into the stomach and then contracts to prevent backflow into the oesophagus) protects the oesophagus from stomach acid. However, if the sphincter relaxes or weakens, the stomach contents may push upward and cause acid reflux.
Acidity and heartburn are most frequently reported after having a meal. Food is one of the major factors aggravating acidity as it stimulates the production of stomach acid.
A survey conducted by the National Heartburn Alliance (NHBA) revealed that 92% of frequent
heartburn sufferers report food as the primary cause of their digestive discomfort.
Certain food items can exacerbate acidity and heartburn. Such food items relax the oesophagal sphincter and delay the overall digestion process. This allows the food to remain in the stomach for a longer duration and increase the risk of reflux and heartburn.
Food that can cause acidity and heartburn
- Spicy, fried and salty food, peppermint, and chocolate can increase acid reflux.
- Citrus juices like orange and grapefruit juice irritate the oesophagus.
- High-fat food items such as cheese and nuts can trigger acid reflux and heartburn.
- Moderate to excess alcohol intake can damage the oesophageal lining.
- Coffee, tea and cola drinks can have an acidic pH and reduce the lower oesophageal sphincter pressure.
The quantity and the timing of the meal are also important as a heavy meal eaten within 2-3 hours before bedtime or having a meal with alcohol increases the risk of acid reflux at night.
Symptoms of Food-induced acidity
- Burning in the chest
- Sour taste in the mouth
- Bloating and feeling sick
- Hoarse voice
There are, however, certain foods that help prevent acid reflux.
High-fibre food items:
- They make you feel full and prevent overeating.
- Whole grains such as oatmeal, couscous and brown rice, root vegetables such as sweet potatoes, beets and carrots, green vegetables such as asparagus, broccoli and green beans are rich in fibres.
Alkaline food items:
- Alkaline foods have high pH content and can help neutralise stomach acid.
- Alkaline food items include melons, bananas, cauliflower, fennel and nuts.
Watery food items:
- Eating food items that contain a lot of water can dilute and weaken stomach acid, and prevent acid reflux.
- Lettuce, watermelon, celery, cucumber are a few examples of watery food.
Certain home remedies can also help alleviate heartburn symptoms:
- Basil leaves Tea
Basil leaves have soothing and carminative properties that can provide instant relief from acidity.
- Ginger tea
Ginger is a great digestive aid. It reduces irritation in the stomach due to its alkaline nature and anti-inflammatory properties.
Lactic acid present in buttermilk neutralises the stomach acid and alleviates acid reflux and heartburn.
- Coconut Water
Coconut water stimulates the production of mucus in the stomach, thereby protecting the stomach lining from the harmful effects of excessive acid production. Being rich in fibre, it aids digestion and prevents the re-occurrence of acidity.
Although certain home remedies can reduce heartburn and acid reflux, they cannot help in case of frequent and severe acidity. Certain over the counter and prescribed medicines can come to the rescue in such cases.
- Antacids can help neutralize stomach acid and prevent heartburn.
- H2-receptor blockers can decrease stomach acid production for up to 12 hours and provide relief from symptoms.
- Proton-pump inhibitors (PPIs) block acid by reducing the production of gastric acid, allowing time for damaged oesophagal tissue to heal. The most popular PPI across the world remains Omeprazole. It is generally considered safe and also available over the counter in many countries including the US. However, in India, you might need doctor consultation for it to be prescribed. So, in case your acidity is not controlled by lifestyle changes, please visit your nearest doctor for getting the best suitable treatment for you.
One of the best remedies for treating food-induced acidity is to avoid food items that trigger acid reflux and heartburn. Eating a healthy and holistic diet has helped many to overcome the problem of acidity and heartburn. In case acidity strikes frequently, you should visit a doctor for better supervision.