Traditional "black" tea is typically on the list of food items to avoid if you've got acid reflux. Green tea is less acidic and lower in caffeine than traditional black tea, but you may still wonder if there's a relationship between green tea and acid reflux.
Known in its chronic form as gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, acid reflux occurs when stomach acid backs up into the esophagus, causing such symptoms as heartburn, scratchy throat, stomach pain and a sour taste in the mouth.
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Understanding how green tea might affect your symptoms could help you decide whether to keep it in your diet.
While green tea is lower in acid than some teas, bottled green teas often contain ingredients that can aggravate your symptoms.
Green Tea and Acid Reflux
Both traditional black and green tea are brewed from the Camellia sinensis leaf, and both contain methylxanthines, a family of stimulants that includes caffeine.
Methylxanthines are the source of the "lift" people get from coffee and tea, according to an August 2012 article published by the American Journal of Physiology - Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology.
But they also loosen a band of muscles called the lower esophageal sphincter, or LES, which normally keeps stomach acid from splashing up into the esophagus by forming a tight seal between the two.
Green tea contains less caffeine than coffee and black tea, but it also has 2 other methylxanthines — theobromine and theophylline. For that reason, green tea may cause the LES to loosen, allowing acid reflux to occur.
However, according to a January 2019 article published by Medicine, research has not proven a relationship between tea and acid reflux.
Beware of Bottled Green Tea
Another property of green tea and other teas made from the Camellia sinensis leaf that can be bad for reflux is acidity. Acidic beverages irritate the esophageal lining on contact, so they can be particularly bothersome if your esophagus is already irritated or inflamed from acid reflux.
While normal brewed green tea is actually quite low in acid, green tea that comes in a bottle is another matter. Most bottled green teas are fortified with an acid preservative such as ascorbic acid, which can increase symptoms of gastrointestinal disorders, according to a January 2018 article published by the Korean Journal of Physiology & Pharmacology. Some bottled teas are also flavored with citrus juices, making them more acidic.
Consider Green Tea Blends
Because of its mild flavor and health benefits, green tea is often sold in blends with other herbal infusions. Mint and yerba mate are two herbs often combined with green tea, and they're also two herbal infusions that anyone with acid reflux should approach cautiously.
Although mint tea has many properties that aid digestion, mint is also high in methylxanthines, which can relax the LES, allowing stomach acids to leak through, according to the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy. The same goes for yerba mate, which contains caffeine as well.
Draw Your Own Conclusions
Although methylxanthines are proven to loosen the LES, thus contributing to acid reflux symptoms, green tea itself has not been widely studied in relation to acid reflux.
According to a March 2013 article published by the American Journal of Gastroenterology, The American College of Gastroenterology suggests that health practitioners encourage people to make their own determinations about which foods and beverages trigger their symptoms, rather than telling them specifically what to eliminate.
- American Journal of Gastroenterology: "Diagnosis and Management of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease"
- American Journal of Physiology - Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology: "Caffeine Relaxes Smooth Muscle Through Actin Depolymerization"
- Medicine: "Association Between Tea Consumption and Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease"
- American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy: "Diet and Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)"
- Korean Journal of Physiology & Pharmacology: "Alleviation of Ascorbic Acid-Induced Gastric High Acidity by Calcium Ascorbate in Vitro and in Vivo"
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.