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Acid reflux or heartburn is a problem that affects many people. It is not dangerous, but if it persists and becomes a chronic problem, it may indicate a more serious condition that requires medical evaluation. Occasional bouts of acid reflux can successfully be treated by introducing slight dietary changes.

What is acid reflux?

In acid reflux, the acidic juices from the stomach, whose purpose is to aid the digestion, come back up in the esophagus through an opening called lower esophageal sphincter.

Lower esophageal sphincter is in fact a valve that opens to let the food down in the stomach, and then closes again to prevent the juices and the food from climbing up. When this valve relaxes, it sometimes opens and allows the acidic digestive juices into the esophagus, which is not able to tolerate them. This causes a burning sensation in the area, known as heartburn.

Aside from the burning in the chest, which actually comes from the esophagus, the symptoms of acid reflux may include acidic taste and burning in the mouth and throat, breathing difficulties, pain and difficulty while swallowing and insomnia.

Foods to avoid

Acid reflux can be controlled by using medications that reduce the acidity of the digestive juices, and they are called antacids. There are other medications too, and all of them are widely available in drugstores, usually with no prescription required.

However, acid reflux can be controlled and prevented by avoiding certain foods. Some of them are dairy products, including milk, yogurt, cheese, cream, ice cream and milkshakes, spicy foods, onions, garlic, bread, pasta and other high-carb foods, fried food, mashed potatoes, chocolate, sodas, coffee, alcohol, peppermint, spearmint and foods based on tomato juice.

It may seem logical that acidic fruits like oranges, lemons, lime, grapefruit, tangerine and others trigger the symptoms of acid reflux, but it is not true and there is no need to avoid them. In fact, some people claim that they feel better after drinking a glass of strong lemonade or lime juice.

It is important to realize that foods that trigger heartburn vary from person to person. One will get heartburn from eating tomatoes while the other will tolerate tomatoes just fine but will suffer from acid reflux after eating spicy foods or drinking coffee.

Generally, people who often suffer from acid reflux should avoid eating large meals and have four to five smaller meals during the day. It is also recommended not to eat before bedtime and have the last meal of the day five or four hours before going to bed.

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