To some of us, heartburn can feel unavoidable, but the things you eat and drink can play a significant role in the severity of your symptoms

Gastro-oesophageal reflux disease, otherwise known as GORD or – more commonly – acid reflux and heartburn, is a common condition in the UK. In fact, it’s estimated by charity Guts that 25% of all UK adults are living with regular heartburn.[1]

And, perhaps unsurprisingly, there is a significant connection between the severity of your acid reflux and the food and drink you consume. Some of your favourite foods and beverages could be contributing to your symptoms. Here are some of the most common culprits.

Spicy foods

Spicy foods are considered to be among the most common heartburn triggers, due to the fact that many of them contain a compound called capsaicin, which is thought to slow the rate of digestion. Because of this, food sits in the stomach for longer, which increases the risk of heartburn.

Studies have revealed the risks of consuming spicy foods for heartburn sufferers. One Australian study found that consuming foods rich in chilli powder decreased the rate of digestion.[2]

High-fat foods

Like spicy foods, fatty foods have been shown to increase the likelihood of acid reflux symptoms occurring, but in a very different way.

Fatty foods can relax the lower oesophageal sphincter, allowing stomach acid to escape from the stomach into the oesophagus and cause acid reflux.[3]

What’s more, foods that are high in fat can also encourage the release of the hormone cholecystokinin (CCK). This has also been shown to relax the lower oesophageal sphincter and cause acid reflux.[4]

Citrus juice

Although it is not entirely clear how it occurs, multiple studies have shown that citrus juices like orange juice and grapefruit juice can act as a trigger for heartburn symptoms.

For example, one Korean study found that 67% of 382 of heartburn sufferers experienced worse symptoms after drinking orange juice.[5] In another study, 73% of people suffered acid reflux after drinking citrus juice.[6]

Alcohol

It’s December, which means many of us will be enjoying more than our average intake of alcohol over the coming weeks. However, for acid reflux sufferers, this can spell increased symptoms.

Like fatty foods, alcohol has been shown to relax the lower oesophageal symptoms, which can trigger heartburn. [7] But as well as this, studies have shown that drinking significant quantities of wine and beer can actually increase the amount of stomach acid in your body, making heartburn more likely to occur.[8]

Coffee

Research into the relationship between coffee and acid reflux is largely ongoing, with some studies concluding that there is no link between the two factors, while others suggest that coffee can be a trigger.

For example, one 1980 study found that, like alcohol and fatty foods, coffee can potentially relax the lower oesophageal sphincter and make acid reflux more likely to occur.[9]

When it comes to drinking coffee, it really depends on your own personal experience. If you find that you can enjoy coffee without experiencing heartburn, there’s no reason to avoid it completely.

Changing your dietary habits can help to tackle your acid reflux symptoms. You can also invest in safe and effective acid reflux medication, available here at Express Pharmacy. Contact one of our pharmacists today by calling 0208 123 07 03 or using our discreet live chat service.

[1] Guts UK. Heartburn and Acid Reflux. 2019

[2] Horowitz, M. et al. The effect of chilli on gastrointestinal transit. Journal of gastroenterology and hepatology. 1992

[3] Holloway, RH. et al. Effect of intraduodenal fat on lower oesophageal sphincter function and gastro-oesophageal reflux. Gut. 1997

[4] Ledeboer, M. et al. Effect of cholecystokinin on lower oesophageal sphincter pressure and transient lower oesophageal sphincter relaxations in humans. Gut. 1995

[5] Kim, YK. et al. The relationship between the popular beverages in Korea and reported postprandial heartburn. Korean Journal of Gastroenterology. 2010

[6] Feldman, M. et al. Relationships between the acidity and osmolality of popular beverages and reported postprandial heartburn. Gastroenterology. 1995

[7] Chen, SH. et al. Is alcohol consumption associated with gastroesophageal reflux disease? Journal of Zhejiang University, Science. 2010

[8] Chari, S. et al. Alcohol and gastric acid secretion in humans. Gut. 1993

[9] Thomas, FB. et al. Inhibitory effect of coffee on lower oesophageal sphincter pressure. Gastroenterology. 1980