Acid reflux is very common but despite this, the causes of acid reflux are not always easy to identify. It occurs when your stomach acid leaves the stomach and makes its way into the oesophagus leading to heart burn, pain, nausea and a whole range of unpleasant acid reflux symptoms.
There can be a variety of reasons why this occurs and sometimes it is because of lifestyle reasons such as eating too much rich food. Alternatively, it may be a physical problem with the sphincter muscle which keeps acid in the stomach failing to work effectively.
However, in many cases, symptoms which feel like acid reflux (indigestion, belching, gas, heartburn etc) can be caused by intolerance to certain foods and this is not always so easy to identify. You may already have a list of foods to avoid for acid reflux because you have noticed that acid reflux disease occurs after eating certain foods but in many cases, it is not one specific food that is causing the problem but an entire food group.
Dairy products can cause acid reflux symptoms. Sometimes this is attributed to the high fat content of milk ,cream or cheese but it may actually be due to lactose intolerance. This condition is caused by a lack of enzymes in your gut which your body needs to break down milk and dairy products.
It seems counter intuitive to attribute milk to causing acid reflux so if you do not realise that you have an allergy, milk may be one of the last foods to avoid for acid reflux on your list. Identifying your problem will enable you to avoid it. If you also get lower bowel symptoms such as bloating and loose bowel motions after consuming dairy, then this is also a sign you may be intolerant of it.
Fructose intolerance is also a common cause of acid reflux. This occurs when the intestine cannot readily absorb this more complex sugar and it ‘overloads’ the system. Fructose is present in a wide range of foodstuff including cakes and pastries, alcohol, breakfast cereals, pizza, diet drinks, sodas and some fresh fruit and veg. It can be difficult to avoid.
Find out why some fruits can cause bloating:
Taking a hydrogen breath test will establish whether your acid reflux symptoms can be attributed to lactose or fructose intolerance. It also importantly tells us if there is any bacteria in the small bowel (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) which may be fermenting these sugars before you have chance to absorb them, which can cause reflux like symptoms.
Some foods not in these groups can also cause acid reflux symptoms and you may find you have to avoid these too. Caffeine is a trigger for many as is fried food and high fat food. Eating too late, eating too much, spicy food, fatty food – these are all common causes of acid reflux.
In many cases keeping to a “healthy diet” may help you avoid acid reflux symptoms but not always. After all, if you suffer from a food intolerance you will not be able to avoid the symptoms of acid reflux until you fully understand the cause. Remember, to eat well and not too late at night!