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Acid reflux | Symptoms, causes, and foods to avoid

30 August, 2018
Heartburn and acid reflux | Causes

Acid reflux can be a serious condition

If you are experiencing a new onset of signs and/or symptoms consistent with acid reflux or heartburn, you should consult a medical practitioner as a matter of priority.

Acid reflux is highly correlated with obesity and risk of heart attack. While medication may temporarily relieve symptoms, you should be looking for a long-term health solution.

Heartburn is a symptom of acid reflux

Heartburn, as uncomfortable as it is, isn’t the real problem; it’s merely the terrible, fiery symptom of acid reflux. If left to continue in its lava path of oesophageal irritation, it can lead to Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GORD), which can in turn lead to chronic coughing, interrupted sleep, laryngitis and asthma.

Fortunately, this condition isn’t a random occurrence. By understanding the causes behind acid reflux, how to change eating habits to accommodate for it, and learning a few recipes, we can leave behind the sour taste left in our mouths.

What is acid reflux?

It’s almost all in the name – acid reflux is the travelling of stomach acid up the oesophagus. This happens when the entrance valve to your stomach (the lower oesophageal sphincter, or LOS) stays open for too long or doesn’t close all the way after food passes through it.

Your stomach is built to hold acid. Your oesophagus is not. That’s why feeling full is associated with contentment, and acid reflux with a swift and merciful ending.

What causes acid reflux?

There are many reasons you might be experiencing acid reflux. You might have overindulged, be obese, have a malfunctioning LOS, a hiatal hernia, or might be experiencing carbohydrate malabsorption.


Like any bag, your stomach can only hold so much. Eating too much, or drinking too much (especially coffee and alcohol), can fill your stomach past a healthy point.

If you’re unable to say ‘no’ to one more bite, try eating more slowly, or consume healthier foods in smaller sizes.


The extra fat carried around the waist puts extra pressure on the stomach and small intestine. Certain movements of the body, like bending or stooping, can squeeze the stomach, forcing acid from the stomach up through the oesophagus.

Hiatal hernia

Unfortunately, your body doesn’t always stay in the shape you want it to, and this is precisely what happens with a hiatal hernia.

The hiatus is an opening in the diaphragm that separates your oesophagus from your stomach.

A hiatal hernia occurs when the hiatus moves above the diaphragm, bulging the stomach into your oesophagus, allowing stomach acid to pass through.

Carbohydrate malabsorption

This is a trickier one that requires us to understand the relationship between your diet, the working of your gut flora, and how much of your health it can impact.

Carbs, gut bacteria, and gas

Your gut bacteria love a good penne arrabiatta as much as you do. The carbs they get from foods like penne, potato, rice and cereals powers them to live, move, and finally, create gas.

A lot of gas – around 10 litres or more from as little as 30 grams of carbs.

This gas – hydrogen and methane – is what causes us to burp or break wind.

However, when you have an overgrowth of gut bacteria who are feeding off more carbs that you’re unable to absorb, this produces exponentially more gas.

This gas builds internal pressure, impacting yourLOS.

What are other problems associated with acid reflux?

Acid reflux has a lot of distressing compatriots, including:

  • Asthma
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Obesity
  • Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth

The best way to think about your gut and your health issues is as an ecosystem. Ecosystems flourish when they’re balanced; and to do this, we can avoid certain foods, and make sure we’re getting plenty of others.

Foods to avoid when you have acid reflux

You probably know better than anyone what foods are likely to give you grief. Aside from your personal triggers, there are three readily identifiable food groups that generally cause discomfort among those with acid reflux:

High fat foods

Your LOS gets finds fatty foods as relaxing as you do. A relaxed LOS is an inefficient one, so try to avoid consuming

  • Deep fried, starchy foods (like chips)
  • Animal fats
  • Creamy milks
  • Oily foods

Acidic foods

We all love a squeeze of lemon, but not at the cost of late nights and bitter mouths. Try to reduce or avoid other acidic foods like

  • Citrus-laden foods (oranges, limes, mandarins)
  • Tomatoes and tomato-based sauces
  • Vinegar
  • Coffee

Seasonings and tangy foods

All the things that make flavour fun might cause problems down the track, so be sure to be careful when having

  • Garlic
  • Onion
  • Basic
  • Oregano


Gut microbes – Microbial degradation of complex carbohydrates in the gut

Nutrients – The impact of diet and lifestyle on gut microbiota and human health

All information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only. The information provided should not be relied upon as medical advice and does not supersede or replace a consultation with a suitably qualified medical practitioner. CBHS endeavours to provide independent and complete information, and content may include information regarding services, products and procedures not covered by CBHS Health Cover policies. For full terms, click here.

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