August 28

Foods You Should Avoid if You Have GERD and Why

Foods You Should Avoid If You Have GERD And Why


I assume you are here because you suffer from acid reflux or GERD. It sucks, right? I’ve suffered from these ailments for years. Despite advice from doctors and other sufferers, I found little more than temporary relief. I’ll bet you have a similar experience.

In this article, I will explain the foods you should avoid if you have GERD and why. Through diligent research and self-experimentation, I can now control my acid reflux by making the correct food choices, supplementation, and lifestyle changes that are contrary to what most experts provide.

Let me explain how you can have similar success.

What you will learn

  • Excess stomach acid does not cause acid reflux; insufficient stomach acid causes acid reflux
  • Low stomach acid (hypochlorhydria), bloating of the stomach, poor posture, combined with a weak or relaxed LES are the leading causes of acid reflux/GERD
  • If you have GERD or Acid Reflux, you should avoid certain foods because they cause stomach bloating or they irritate or relax the LES – not because the food is acidic

About Foods That May Cause Acid Reflux Symptoms

There are probably a few hundred articles on the internet about foods that cause acid reflux symptoms. Unfortunately, I believe most of them are inaccurate, not necessarily from the foods included on the list but from the reasoning behind including them.

After you see my list of foods, you’ll probably say that my list and their lists are very similar. But the reasoning behind the lists is very different. Excess stomach acid does not cause acid reflux! Acidic foods do not cause acid reflux!

Acidic foods do not increase the acidity of your stomach, and they do not cause acid reflux. Unfortunately, it took me a long time to believe this.

What Causes Acid Reflux

Okay, so if you have read my article on the causes of Heartburn, Acid Reflux, and GERD, you’ll know that I don’t buy into the common idea that they are caused by excess stomach acid.

I also don’t believe that certain foods increase the amount of acid in your stomach. If anything, that would be a good thing because most people do not have enough stomach acid, especially if you are older. After all, as you age, the amount of stomach acid your stomach produces is dramatically reduced compared to when you are younger.

Correlation does NOT Imply Causation

Just because stomach acid is refluxed into your esophagus does not mean you have too much stomach acid.

Leading Causes of Acid Reflux - Summary

Heartburn, Acid Reflux, and GERD are caused by a combination of all or some of the following:

Insufficient Stomach Acid

Low stomach acid causes Acid Reflux in two ways:

  • The lower esophageal sphincter is triggered to remain tightly closed when there is an increase in stomach acid triggered by the digestion of food. Conversely, if there is insufficient stomach acid, the LES will remain slightly open, allowing stomach contents to be regurgitated into the esophagus.

  • Low stomach acid slows the digestion of food, allowing it to ferment and cause stomach bloating.

  • There are other reasons, but these are the main two related to this article. To learn more, read: Everything You Need to Know About Heartburn, Acid Reflux, and GERD

Dysfunction of the Lower Esophageal Sphincter (LES)

As stated above, stomach acid triggers the tight closing of your LES. An irritated LES can also allow stomach acid to be forced into the esophagus. Your LES can become irritated by smoking (first hand or second hand), and ingesting drinks containing caffeine, certain medications, and chocolate. Certain medications and alcohol can cause the LES to relax and also allow stomach acid to leak into the esophagus. You can read more about this here: A Weak LES is One of the Main Causes of GERD

A Hiatal Hernia

The opening in the diaphragm that the esophagus goes through to the stomach is called the hiatal opening. If this opening is too large or the pressure from gas in the stomach is too great the upper portion of your stomach can bulge through the diaphragm.

This can be caused by persistent pressure on the diaphragm and hiatal opening from excessive coughing, straining during bowel movements, an injury of some kind or a congenital disability, bloating of the stomach, and chronic bad posture.

 This causes Acid Reflux because the upper portion of the stomach is vertically higher than the opening of the esophagus, and stomach contents can easily back up into the esophagus due to gravity or bloating of the stomach. Lying down, of course, makes it worse, especially if you lie down soon after eating.

Poor Posture

Improper posture can position the stomach at the same height or higher than the LES (similar to a Hiatal hernia), causing the spilling of stomach contents into the esophagus.

To read more about this: How to Improve Your Posture to Improve Your GERD

Stomach Bloating

Stomach bloating may be caused by eating foods from the first list below. The added pressure can force stomach contents past the LES and into the esophagus.

Eating Too Fast

Usually, if you eat too fast, you do not thoroughly chew your food resulting in slowing digestion and the food staying in your stomach for a more extended period, causing gas to be formed. This gas can exert pressure on the LES, forcing the stomach's contents back into the esophagus.

What Foods Should You Avoid

Below there are two lists:

  1. Foods that may cause stomach bloating - create gas that can force stomach contents past a weakened or dysfunctional LES into the esophagus and up into the throat.

  2.  Foods that may cause irritation or relaxation of the LES valve, causing it to remain partially open, resulting in stomach contents being pushed up into the esophagus by stomach bloating, a hiatal hernia, or poor posture resulting in symptoms of acid reflux.

1. Foods that may cause stomach bloating and force the LES open

  • High-Fat, Fried Foods
    High-fat foods like burgers and ribs or deep-fried foods like French fries, fried onion rings, fried chicken, samosas, and doughnuts can cause bloating because it takes longer for the stomach to break down the fats and digest the food. This allows gas to build up, causing bloating.

  • High-Sodium Foods
    High-sodium meals can cause stomach bloating because they cause you to retain water. The quickest way to reduce this bloating is to drink more water. Read more Here.  

  • Gassy Vegetables
    The worst vegetable for causing bloating are Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, and kale. Although these vegetables are very good for you, they will cause bloating. These vegetables contain a type of sugar called raffinose that remains undigested in your stomach, fermenting, creating gas, and causing your stomach to bloat. 

  • Carbonated Drinks
    All carbonated drinks cause bloating; yes, even carbonated water. This is because the CO2 gases remain in your stomach, causing gas build-up. Also, read the ingredients and beware of carbonated drinks that contain caffeine, sugar, and sodium. The exception is mineral water. The carbonation in mineral water is natural. Read more Here.

  • Artificial Sweeteners
    Most artificial sweeteners cannot be digested so they linger in the stomach until they can be excreted into the large intestine; they cause the fermentation of bacteria resulting in the production of gas, bloating the stomach. So diet carbonated drinks (with caffeine) compounds the problem. 

  • Dairy Products
    If you are lactose intolerant, consuming dairy products will make you feel bloated. This condition is common, especially among people of Asian, African, and Southern European descent. This is because the lactose in the dairy product cannot be completely digested and will pass to the colon, where gas is produced by the bacteria trying to break it down.

  • Fructose
    The fruit will cause excess gas and gastric bloating if you cannot digest fructose properly. So choose lower fructose fruits, like sweet melon and apricots, instead of high-fructose fruits like apples, cherries, mangoes, watermelon, and pears. Eating fruit separately from a meal - either 30 minutes before or at least two hours after is also best. And don’t eat more than one or two pieces per day, even low-fructose fruits - a little adds up to a lot.

  • White Flour
    Avoid foods made with white flour like white bread, donuts, cakes, cookies, etc. You will find whole wheat to be better, but it, too, may cause bloating if eaten in excess.

2. Foods that may irritate the LES or cause the LES to relax

  • Spicy Foods
    Spicy foods can irritate the esophagus and the LES, causing it to become swollen and remain partially open. Limit your intake of black pepper, nutmeg, cloves, chili powder, curry, onions, garlic, mustard, BBQ sauce, horseradish, tomato sauce, and vinegar.

  • Chocolate
    The cocoa in chocolate can cause the intestinal cells that relax the LES to release a surge of serotonin. However, chocolate also contains caffeine and theobromine, which can increase symptoms by irritating the LES.

  • Peppermint
    Peppermint relaxes the LES allowing stomach contents to back up into the esophagus easily.

  • Coffee and Caffeinated Tea
    No studies have proven that caffeine increases the chances of GERD, so this may be particular to certain people. However, I find that sometimes caffeine bothers me, and sometimes I can drink 2 or 3 coffees without problems. 

  • Alcohol
    Alcohol mixed with carbonated drinks and the gas released from the beer can also increase the chances of acid reflux symptoms. The alcohol relaxes the LES, and the gas from the carbonated drinks and the beer can cause stomach bloating, increasing the pressure on the LES.

  • Tomatoes
    Tomatoes irritate the LES.

  • Citrus Juices
    Lemon and lime juices irritate the LES.

  • Smoking
    Smoke can dry the mouth, reducing the amount of saliva, which affects digestion. Also, nicotine has a relaxing effect on the muscles of the LES.

  • Certain Medications
     - Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen and naproxen
     - Blood pressure or heart medications such as calcium channel blockers and nitroglycerin
     Osteoporosis drugs called bisphosphonates
     - Progestins, such as progesterone
     - Medicines that reduce the amount of saliva you produce, such as antihistamines and antidepressants

Everyone is Different – Recognize Your Own Acid Reflux Triggers

There will be foods or drinks not on these lists that may affect you and no one else. There will be foods and drinks on this list that may never bother you.

I have a big problem with dry roasted peanuts. I love these things, but the powder or dust that they are coated with irritates my esophagus causing my LES to relax or not properly close. If I have a coke and a few handfuls of these dry roasted nuts within a few hours of going to sleep, I can almost guarantee that I will be woken an hour or so into my sleep with severe acid reflux.

Keep a Food Diary of Foods That Cause Acid Reflux For You

Write down everything you eat and note how you feel afterward. This will allow you to determine which foods cause you to have acid reflux symptoms. Include the time you ate, approximately how much you ate, and the time the symptom occurred.

Supplements that can help Reduce or Prevent Acid Reflux

  • Betaine HCl with Pepsin: take these just before or while eating to increase the hydrochloric acid in your stomach. Read my article about how to supplement this product correctly. Sold on Amazon

  • Digestive Bitters: The bitterness promotes healthy digestion by triggering an increase in stomach acid. There are many different kinds of digestive bitters. For improved digestion, look for formulations with gentian, dandelion, wormwood, and burdock. Sold on Amazon.

  • Beano contains an enzyme that can help you digest the complex carbohydrates in vegetables, legumes, and grains before they're broken down in your large intestine, where they're more likely to cause gas. Beano works if you take it immediately before eating potentially gassy foods. Sold on Amazon

  • Probiotics (Culturelle, Align, VSL#3) contain "good" bacteria that may help maintain a healthy balance in your digestive system to prevent and reduce gas. Many yogurts contain probiotics but lactose and sugar—both of which can cause bloating. Try taking probiotics in supplement form daily to see if they help. Sold on Amazon.

Summary - Closing Tips

In closing, you don't have to avoid bloat-causing foods if you follow these guidelines totally:

  • Eat vegetables cooked instead of raw. Cooking helps break down some fiber, so your body doesn't have to work hard to digest it.

  • Don't combine high gas foods with high-fat foods. For example, avoid eating a cheeseburger with French fries.

  • Limit serving sizes of gas-producing foods to no more than 1 cup total per day.

  • Go easy on starchy beans, including kidney, black and pinto beans, chickpeas, and edamame (green beans are fine).

  • Soaking lentils and beans overnight before cooking removes a lot of their gaseousness.

  • Exercise at least 30 minutes a day, but not within 2 hours of eating. Regular exercise helps keep your digestive system functioning smoothly and cuts down on the production of gas.

  • Lose belly fat. This will also reduce the pressure in your stomach.

  • Don’t wear tight clothing, especially around your waist.

  • Eat slowly, and chew your food thoroughly. Chew each mouthful at least 30 times. This improves digestion and puts less strain on the system.

  • Eat smaller portions, eat earlier in the day, and eat more often.

  • Chew gum after eating. This increases saliva production, which helps with digestion.

  • If you feel bloated and gassy, try drinking ginger or fennel tea, or take a ginger or fennel supplement. They help reduce gas and calm your digestive system.

  • Take a walk after you finish eating. Do not sit or lie down after a meal.

  • Don’t eat within three hours of going to bed.

  • Do not drink water just before, during, or right after your meal. Water will dilute your stomach acid, prolonging the time to digest food.

  • Drink 1-3 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar (ACV) mixed in 8 ounces of water 30 minutes before a meal containing protein. The ACV causes the stomach to start producing stomach acid.

  • Replace regular table salt with sea salt. Pink Himalayan Sea Salt is the best. It promotes the formation of hydrochloric acid in your stomach and supplies healthy electrolytes – it has less than half the sodium of regular salt.


The information contained here does not constitute medical advice and is not meant to diagnose, treat, prevent, or cure disease. Please contact your doctor. The information provided is for informational purposes only and are solely the views of the author.

Low Stomach Acid is the Main Cause of Heartburn, Acid Reflux, and GERD

Please Leave a Comment

  • I feel like I have finally read information that will help me! I’ve always said that foods like apples and watermelon would trigger digestive upset, everyone said no, apples are good for reflux. After eating one the other day that gave me horrible stomach cramps for almost 4 days, never again! My goal is to quit taking my prescription acid reducer, given to me by my gastroenterologist and control it myself, naturally. Thank you!

    • Hi Lisa, I agree, everyone is different. I also used to get heartburn from apples (most fruit actually). In fact, I would get heartburn from drinking water. Please be careful when you quit taking your acid-reducing medication – reduce gradually – do not stop all at once – you will experience the worst reflux ever. Reduce the medication gradually until and avoid your trigger foods during this time. If you decide to try Betaine HCl to increase your stomach acid I would suggest waiting two weeks after you stop your medication – let your system stabilize a bit before introducing Betaine. I hope this helps, Dave

    • Hi Mary, thank you for your question. It is estimated by medical researchers that over 90% of people who suffer from reflux or GERD have below normal levels of stomach acid. As we age our acid levels decline dramatically. At age 50 the stomach releases only 15% of the acid it produced at age 25. Even more alarming is that 35% of people over age 65 produce no stomach acid at all.

      Stomach acid is very important for proper digestion:
      • Stomach acid activates the enzyme pepsin needed for protein digestion
      • Stomach acid signals to the pancreas to produce digestive juices and enzymes to further break down food
      • Stomach acid initiates peristalsis, the rhythmic contractions of the intestines, that crush and move the food through the GI tract
      • Stomach acid performs an essential digestive function by reducing food clumps (bolus) into smaller particles (chyme) so that the intestines can absorb nutrients quickly and effectively.

      Another important function of stomach acid is the effect that it has on the Lower Esophageal Sphincter (LES). The LES is the valve that allows food to enter the stomach but prohibits the reflux of gastric acid into the esophagus. The autonomic nervous system activates the LES in response to increased stomach acidity. The LES has “sensors” that measure the acidity of your stomach contents. As the concentration of stomach acid (aka Hydrochloric acid or HCl for short) increases, the closing pressure of the LES increases. However, if the stomach does not reach the proper level of acidity, the LES valve remains open and stomach acid will reflux into the esophagus.

      Conversely, the pyloric sphincter is the valve that holds stomach contents until they are ready to flow down to the intestines. The pyloric sphincter works in exactly the opposite way of the LES. It will not open until stomach acidity has reached a sufficiently high level. This is nature’s way of ensuring that food is properly digested before it flows through the rest of the gastrointestinal system. However, if the stomach does not reach the proper level of acidity, the pyloric valve remains closed and the stomach will linger resulting in indigestion, bloating and possibly forcing stomach contents to backflow into the esophagus.
      This pressure in conjunction with the insufficient closing of the LES forces stomach contents back up into the esophagus.

      As we age, our body produces less and less stomach acid. It is therefore no coincidence that reflux and GERD increase with age. Stomach acid levels decrease by approximately 1% per year.
      Hope this helps clarify

  • Best advice ever! It took me one full year of note taking and experimenting to learn 2/3 of the contents of this article.

  • {"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

    Subscribe to our newsletter now!