Is Citric Acid in Drinks Bad for Acid Reflux?

Acid reflux can be painful and is often associated with a burning sensation. It can occur when stomach acid is pushed into the esophagus. During an episode of acid reflux, you may taste regurgitated food or sour liquid at the back of your mouth or feel a burning sensation in your chest. Citric acid can cause an increase in stomach acid. If you have ongoing acid reflux, consult your physician for a proper diagnosis.

Glass of orange juice being poured (Image: artisteer/iStock/Getty Images)

Acid Reflux

There are two sphincters, or valves, that can affect acid reflux. The sphincter between your esophagus and stomach prevents stomach acid from coming upwards. The second sphincter is located in the esophagus near the throat. These sphincters may open at inappropriate times or not close completely, allowing acid to creep upwards into the esophagus and throat. Acid reflux can turn into a more serious condition called gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD. Many pregnant women get increased heartburn, or acid reflux. In pregnancy, the baby puts pressure on the stomach, which may cause acid to push upwards.

Citric Acid and Reflux

Citric acid is naturally present in citrus fruits. It is also used for flavoring and preserving in other foods such as soft drinks, sweet juice drinks and candy. Citric acid can cause acid reflux because the stomach is designed to withstand the additional acid from citrus foods, but not the esophagus.

Drinks that Contain Citric Acid

Lemons, limes, oranges, and grapefruits come to mind when thinking about citrus fruits. These fruits possess the highest amounts of citric acid, while berries are moderate sources with strawberries, raspberries, cranberries, and gooseberries all containing citric acid to some degree. Juice drinks containing high citrus fruits can cause an increase in acid reflux, as well. Many people with acid reflux may be able to tolerate pineapple or apricot juice since the citric acid content is not quite as high in these fruits. Not only is citrus acid found in juice drinks, but also in carbonated beverages. It is added to soft drinks for flavor. Limiting these high citric acid drinks can decrease the symptoms of acid reflux.

Drink to Consume Instead

Water should always be a number one choice for drinks. Your body needs additional water to ensure proper hydration. Some flavored carbonated waters also contain citric acid. Make sure to check the back of the label before drinking. There are some fruit juices that may not affect the acid in your stomach. Apple and grape juices have lower amounts of citric acid. If you have acid reflux, some foods and drinks may affect you more than others. It is best to stay away from foods that do increase the burning sensation and reflux symptoms.

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