Olive oil is prized for its nutty, earthy flavor and its high concentration of monounsaturated fatty acids, which can reduce bad cholesterol levels and help lower the risk for heart disease and stroke. Some people even claim it can treat acid reflux, but there isn't any evidence to support this. In fact, as a rich fat source and an acidic food, olive oil may worsen acid reflux for some people. Talk to your doctor about whether you should include olive oil in your acid reflux diet.
About Acid Reflux
Acid reflux, or heartburn, is a common condition experienced by more than 60 million Americans at least once a month, according to the American College of Gastroenterology website. It most often occurs after a meal, when acidic stomach juices leak back up into the esophagus. The burning sensation you feel is from prolonged exposure of the esophageal lining to these acidic juices. Although many lifestyle factors, including being overweight and smoking, can cause acid reflux, some foods, including acidic and fatty foods, also play a role.
A Trigger, Not a Treatment
At the bottom end of the esophagus is a muscular band called the lower esophageal sphincter. This band is responsible for closing after food enters the stomach to prevent stomach acid from entering the esophagus. Fatty foods can cause the sphincter to relax, allowing stomach acid to enter the esophagus, bringing on heartburn. While it won't trigger heartburn for everyone, olive oil is a fat and therefore can be a trigger for some. This is especially true if you eat a lot of olive oil at once, such as pasta drenched in an olive oil-rich sauce.
The Acidity of Olive Oil
Although acidic foods don't cause heartburn, they may worsen it. According to Go Ask Alice! on the Columbia University website, acidic foods can intensify the burning sensation when the contents of your stomach come into contact with your esophagus. Olive oil is an acidic food. According to Dr. V. John Bagnato on the Georgia Reflux Surgery website, the type of olive oil you use may make a difference. Refined olive oils are highly acidic, whereas extra virgin olive oils have a lower acidity level.
The Best Treatment Plan
Long-term treatment for acid reflux is not achieved by a spoonful of olive oil. A combination of dietary and lifestyle changes is the first place to start. Avoid any foods that trigger your symptoms. In addition to fatty foods, chocolate, spicy foods, tomato products and alcohol are common trigger foods. Keep a food journal to record your symptoms after eating so you can identify your trigger foods. If you smoke, quit, and if you're overweight, take steps to lose weight through a healthy diet and regular exercise. Also, avoid eating two to three hours before bedtime. If these changes don't work for you, discuss over-the-counter medications with your doctor before taking them.