Too much acid in the stomach can be an uncomfortable reaction to particular foods, a result of poor dietary habits or a symptom of a more serious problem. It is usually accompanied by the unpleasant bodily function of acid reflux, which is when acid from the stomach comes back up through the esophagus when it shouldn't and causes irritation of the esophagus lining.
Luckily, reversing some of the symptoms of too much acid in the stomach can be achieved by paying closer attention to the foods entering your body and possibly through the use of some medications as recommended by your doctor.
Excess Stomach Acid Causes
The body responds to what it consumes in a big way, and excess acid is all a part of that. Paying attention to what is going into your meals and the acidity of foods is a positive way to ensure acid intake isn't too high.
According to University Hospitals, the following are foods and drinks that exacerbate stomach acid and encourage acid reflux:
- Coffee and tea: Caffeine is known to encourage acid reflux; opt for decaf when consuming these drinks.
- Carbonated beverages: Expanding bubbles strain the stomach.
- Chocolate: Caffeine, fat and cocoa all worsen acid reflux.
- Peppermint: Despite its reputation for soothing the stomach, peppermint actually encourages acid reflux.
- Grapefruit and orange: Citrus fruits are naturally high in acid.
- Tomatoes: These too possess a naturally high acid content.
- Alcohol: Alcohol relaxes the stomach sphincter and also creates too much acid in the stomach.
- Fried foods: Oven or grill cooked is always better.
- Late-night snacks: Strain on the digestive system only worsens the condition of the stomach.
What Causes Acid Reflux?
Acid reflux occurs when the circular ring of muscle connecting the stomach and the esophagus does not close properly, causing acid to flow freely from the stomach up through the throat.
The National Health Service of the United Kingdom identifies the following as factors that contribute to high levels of acid in the stomach and therefore an increased likelihood of acid reflux:
- Eating three to four hours before bedtime: As with late-night snacking, mealtimes should be planned in accordance with when the body is scheduled to sleep.
- Tight clothing around the waist can put undue stress on the stomach and increase the chances of acid reflux.
- Lifestyle choices such as smoking and consumption of alcohol can also play a big role in creating too much acid in the stomach.
Foods That Reduce Stomach Acid
If stomach acid is too high, there are certain foods that can act as replacements to any of the highly acidic foods described above.
- Chicken breast: Never eat chicken breast fried; instead opt for boiled, baked or grilled. Removing the skin will also reduce the fatty content and therefore reduce acid in the body's digestive system.
- Brown rice: This whole grain is an inoffensive staple of any diet; just make sure it isn't fried.
- Melons: Melons are an example of a healthy fruit that is low in acidity.
- Ginger: Stew in caffeine-free tea to soothe the stomach.
High Stomach Acid Symptoms
It isn't just acid reflux that can be a sign of too much acid in the stomach. Heartburn, indigestion, stomach cramps and even an unpleasant sour taste in the mouth can all be signs of excessive acid.
If you begin to experience or are experiencing any of the uncomfortable symptoms listed above, check in with your health care professional who will be able to advise you on dietary/lifestyle changes or prescribe medication that can help.
Controlling Excess Stomach Acid
- Maintaining a healthy weight: Being overweight can exacerbate stomach acid and pressure on the stomach muscles.
- Eating small, frequent meals: A large intake of food at any one time fills the stomach and may stress the esophageal sphincter. Space out meals and have smaller portions to ease the pressure on the stomach muscles.
- Watching your posture while eating: Sitting upright when consuming food allows for a more streamlined digestive process as it straightens out where the esophagus and stomach meet, and this can ease pressure on the stomach that can result in acid reflux.
Foods That Worsen Acid Reflux
Nutrition Facts advises that foods higher in fat are the biggest contributors to acid reflux. This is because as fatty foods are consumed, the esophageal sphincter connected to the stomach loosens and relaxes, which means more acid can pass through.
Eggs and meat have also been shown to contribute to acid reflux, as Nutrition Facts informs that meat eaters are twice as likely to present esophageal inflammation when compared to those on a vegetarian diet.
Lifestyle Adjustments for Acidity
Though diet is the biggest contributor to how efficiently the digestive system works, lifestyle is also a highly important contributor, and certain changes can make all the difference if the body is struggling with too much acid in the stomach.
Smoking should be stopped, and alcohol consumption should be moderated as too much can exacerbate stomach acid. Carrying out any form of exercise or physical exertion following a meal can also put undue stress on the stomach. It is recommended that the body be given time to digest.
Even the position of the head when sleeping can affect the digestive system and the flow of acid between the stomach and esophagus. The Cleveland Clinic recommends elevating the head of the bed by 6 to 8 inches using wooden blocks if acid reflux is a persistent issue.
Beyond changing lifestyle habits and adjusting the diet to include more foods with lower acid content, it can also be beneficial to begin consuming foods that actually neutralize stomach acid.
AARP (formerly the American Association of Retired Persons) recommends certain stomach-acid-neutralizing foods for all adults:
- Bananas: High in fiber and low in acid, this fruit makes for a great digestive strengthener.
- Oatmeal: Also high in fiber, oatmeal promotes intestinal health and reduces constipation, which can incur excessive stomach acid.
- Yogurt**:** Yogurt soothes the stomach, as well as being a high source of protein, which emboldens the digestive system.
- Green vegetables: Naturally low in sugar, green vegetables help to neutralize potentially harmful stomach acids.
Is Stomach Acid Harmful?
No, stomach acid is a natural part of the digestive system that helps with the breakdown of foods and allows the body to work as it should. It's only if there is an excessive amount or the acid is regurgitated into your esophagus that it's harmful.
Closer attention to lifestyle habits and the foods consumed should mean there is no need for concern when it comes to acid levels in the body. Should you have any serious or continued concerns, contact your health care professional as soon as possible.
- University Hospitals: "The Best and Worst Foods for Acid Re-flux"
- The National Health Service: "Heartburn and Acid Re-flux"
- MedlinePlus: "Gastroesophageal Re-flux Disease"
- Cleveland Clinic: "Lifestyle Guidelines for the Treatment of GERD"
- Nutrition Facts: "Best Foods for Acid Reflux"
- AARP: "5 Top Foods to Stave off Acid Reflux Symptoms"