The stomach produces hydrochloric acid to aid the digestion of food and kill harmful pathogens. Unusually excessive secretion of this acid results in a condition of acidity. It is manifested in intense heartburn felt below the chest, caused by the acid moving back up into the esophagus.
The leading cause of acidity is unhealthy food habits, and this is especially the case in India where oily and spicy food is consumed often. Here are 10 foods to avoid if you want to escape that uncomfortable burning sensation:
1. Fried Food
Fried food tops the list of foods to be avoided to prevent acidity because of its high-fat content. It also sits in the stomach for longer, causing a feeling of fullness. A ‘full’ stomach disrupts the digestive system by producing more acid than normal. What’s more, it puts pressure on the Lower Esophageal Sphincter or LES, the ring of muscle that prevents the acid in the stomach from moving upwards. This causes a distasteful onslaught of the juices from your meal in your throat. That sure hurts!
2. Citrus Fruits
Citrus Fruits are loaded with essential vitamins and nutrients such as Vitamin C and lycopene. However, citrus fruits such as oranges, grapefruits, and even tomatoes are some of the top triggers for heartburn. These are of a highly acidic nature, making them especially harmful on an empty stomach. Hence, a glass of orange juice for breakfast might be great to keep your weight in check but not your acidity.
Consuming chocolate leads to a surge in serotonin levels in the body. This relaxes the intestinal cells and also the LES, leading to an easy flow of the stomach acid into the esophagus. The cocoa powder in chocolate is also acidic and may cause symptoms of acidity to become even starker. The latter might also be the result of caffeine and theobromine present in chocolate.
Coffee, iced tea or any other beverage that contains caffeine ought to be avoided to prevent an acidity attack. If you are prone to acidity but coffee is your all-time lifesaver, it is advisable to at least cut down on portion sizes. Three to four cups of coffee at regular intervals in a day is alright, but sipping on a latte at your work desk all through the day is a sure-shot trigger for acidity.
Peppermints are great to impress a date with fresh breath but bad for an acidic bout in the throat. Studies have proven peppermint to be very effective for indigestion, irritable bowel syndrome, and pain in the lower gut. But when it comes to heartburn, the menthol present in peppermint may actually further relax the LES and make your acidity even more unpleasant. Mint-flavored products irritate the throat and worsen the bitter taste caused by acidity.
Consumption of high-fat meats such as beef, lamb, and pork has been identified as another top cause of acidity. It stimulates the release of the cholecystokinin hormone in the body, which triggers heartburn. There are two reasons why this is so. First, the secretion of this hormone relaxes the LES. Second, it keeps the food in the stomach for longer to be digested better, but this, in turn, increases the likelihood of heartburn.
7. Milk and Dairy Products
Drinking milk may aggravate the symptoms of acidity for some, even though it has been traditionally recommended to relieve heartburn. It increases the production of acid in the stomach, the reason for which has been identified by many studies as the fat present in milk. The high-fat content of some milk-based products such as cheese also triggers acidity in some people.
Like all other foods on this list, onions relax the LES, making them one of the foods to be avoided to prevent acidity. In addition, onions contain high doses of fermentable fiber. This fiber is one of the FODMAPs, which is a group of compounds that cause digestive issues such as belching. Belching further intensifies the bitter taste in the throat caused by acidity.
The research on the effects of alcohol on acidity has yielded mixed results. For instance, it has been found that drinking wine reduces irritation of the esophageal lining but induces the production of acid in the stomach. Drinking beer has also been found to significantly increase the possibility of acid reflux. The bottom line is thus, to limit alcohol intake to one or two drinks long before bedtime to prevent acidity.
10. Carbonated Drinks
Carbonated drinks such as sodas and soft drinks are common perpetrators of acidity. These relax the LES and increase the secretion of acid in the stomach, both of which are the major reasons for heartburn. They also cause gastric distension, which is an immense bloating of the stomach that puts further pressure on the LES.
Maintaining a check on one's diet and making the right choices keep acidity at bay in the long run. However, in times of emergency when you can only afford a quick fix, all you need is Gas-O-Fast dissolved in a glass of water. It comes with the goodness of nature in the form of jeera, ajwain, pudina, and saunf - all of which are known to be effective remedies for acidity.