It seems that one of the major culprits causing acid reflux is alcohol. Not good news for the drinkers amongst us. Take heart though, it is probably only excessive drinking that’s to blame – perceived wisdom is that a couple of glasses of wine with your dinner won’t hurt you, although there is some argument as to whether red or white is better. Personally, I find white wine more acidic and therefore assumed that it would be more likely to cause acid reflux. However, as alcohol prevents the esophageal sphincter from working properly and thus allows stomach acid to reflux into the esophagus, the acidity of the alcohol may be irrelevant. Notwithstanding that, when drinking alcohol, limit quantities and dilute spirits with water or a mixer. Wine may also be diluted with water or lemonade. Gassy drinks like champagne and beer should be avoided if possible.
Alcohol is not the only culprit – chocolate, peppermint, coffee, tea, caffeinated soft drinks such as colas and citrus fruit juices also inhibit the normal workings of the esophageal sphincter so keep intake of these to an absolute minimum, if you can’t give them up completely.
Chewing gum and eating hard sweets cause excessive air to be swallowed, thus causing wind and reflux.
Fatty and fried foods also delay the emptying of the stomach so steer clear of any fatty meat, particularly those found on the delicatessen counter, such as salamis, sausages and patés. “Fatty” includes full fat milk and other dairy products (cheese, cream, butter, margarine). Tomatoes can aggravate the condition in some people, as can spices such as chilies (powdered, fresh or dried) and any derivatives like Tabasco. Condiments such as Worcestershire and soy sauces and any sort of horseradish or mustard should also be taken with care.
Now for the good news – you can eat, with some freedom, vegetables (not tomatoes), chicken and turkey (without skin), fish, apples, peaches, melons, pears and berries. You can eat, in moderation, skimmed or semi-skimmed milk, low fat spreads and cottage cheese. Oh, and you can drink water until you float!
A few other things you can do to avoid or alleviate acid reflux are:
- Avoid eating large meals – little and often is better.
- Avoid eating too late at night.
- Don’t lie down or bend over when you’ve just eaten a meal.
- Put blocks of wood under the head of the bed to raise it by six inches or so.
- Try not to wear tight clothing around the area of the abdomen and stomach.
- Nicotine weakens the lower esophageal muscle – give it up – it’s not good for you anyway!
- Lose weight if you need to. Obesity is not only usually caused by eating all the foods that you should be avoiding, but leads to worsened acid reflux.
Ultimately, everyone is different and foods that some people can tolerate cause incredibly painful indigestion for others. Only you can tell, so be sensible and avoid those foods that have an adverse effect.