Stomach acid has long been blamed for acid reflux, gastroesophageal reflux disease and other ailments. It is a watery, colorless fluid that is produced by your stomach’s lining. Its high acid(pH) level helps break down food and absorb nutrients but sometimes acid has a higher pH level than normal and can irritate your esophagus lining. This can cause heartburn, a symptom of acid reflux which is a chest pain caused by the backwash of stomach acid. But now some experts are beginning to think that the issues may lie not just in the acid backwash from the stomach but in the food going down as well.
Studies suggest that more than 15 million Americans experience heartburn symptoms each day.
But how do you know when your stomach acid is too acidic and can cause damage? Acid has varying levels of pH, the lower the pH the more acidic and the higher the pH the lower the level. To neutralize the acidity, you need to consume alkaline minerals. You can do this by eating foods with a high alkaline content including brown rice, root vegetables, and bananas. Avoid foods like oranges, chili powder, and fatty foods that have high acidity contents and low pH levels. If you suffer from acid reflux you can naturally improve your health by focusing on the balance of acid and alkaline by eating certain foods and avoiding others to manage your gut health.
Probiotics aid many painful problems including indigestion, nausea and heartburn. Probiotics aid in balancing the pH level in your gut and encourage good bacteria to keep growing and prevent bad bacteria build up. When your gut has a balanced pH level then your stomach acid will likely be more balanced, and the acid backsplash will be less painful. Eating foods like yogurt, miso soup, and sauerkraut, that are natural probiotics, enables you to balance your pH while also fighting off bad gut bacteria.
Tips for Low-Acid Eating
- Remember that one serving of meat, poultry, or fish is about the size of a deck of playing cards or around 3 ounces. Keep your acid low by not overconsuming meat and get your protein instead from nuts and legumes instead. It should only take up about one-fourth of your dinner plate while the other three should be grains, fruits and vegetables.
- Keep in mind that it takes three servings of fruits and veggies to neutralize the acid from one serving of animal meat, and two servings of fruits and veggies to neutralize one serving of grain. So, keep those portions to a minimum and add in more fruits, veggies and dairy, specifically root vegetables, yogurt and melon. Fruits and veggies should take up over 50% of your plate per meal and on average you need to eat 2-4 cups of vegetables a day and 1.5 to 2.5 cups of fruit a day. If you are trying to neutralize your consumption of meat and grains, then you will need even more produce.
- If you eat the recommended number (4-6 cups)of fruit and veggies every day, you can safely eat one serving of meat (or fish or chicken). It’s still wise to plan at least one day a week without any animal protein, substitutinglegumes or nuts instead. This could look like 14 walnut halves, 24 almonds, 16 cashews, 28 peanuts, or 45 pistachios. Using foods to control your reflux can prevent pain and damage to your body while preserving enough stomach acid to prevent bacterial growth.
A few foods to alleviate acid reflux naturally.
Bananas: Known for being high in potassium, bananas also have a low pH (acidity) and are recommended for an acid reflux diet. Bananas help neutralize acid in the body and fruit produces mucus that lines the stomach and helps with digestion. But make sure they are ripe bananas as ripe bananas have less acidity than unripe bananas.
Egg whites are a great, low-fat source of protein which may be useful for people with acid reflux trying to reduce their fat intake. But most of the vitamins, minerals, beneficial fats, and other nutrients are found in the egg yolk, so incorporate these in your diet some other way.
Non-dairy milk: Cow’s milk can trigger reflux as it is an animal product and full of protein and fat, so try alternatives such as soy milk, oat milk, and cashew milk. All of these are milks that contain less fat than cow’s milk therefore neutralizing the acid in your stomach.
Vinegar: Drinking apple cider vinegar before meals can help reduce reflux. For the best results and to help with taste, mix the vinegar with water or manuka honey. Drinking the yeast, mother, or bacteria that made the vinegar can also give your stomach a pro-biotic boost, helping to reduce harmful bacteria which thrive in a low-acid stomach.
Popcorn is made from a whole grain, is full of fiber, and can make a great snack. Be sure to eat the popcorn with nothing added such as salt, cheese or butter as those can cause irritation. Popcorn isn’t acidic and has a neutral pH of 7 so it has no positive or negative acidic impact on your stomach.
If you suffer from acid reflux, these diet tips can help minimize your pain and neutralize the pH level of your stomach acid. That said, if you have acid reflux two or more times a week and the changes to your diet or eating pattern have not helped, please consult a healthcare practitioner about gastroesophageal reflux disease.