Symptom series Reflux

Acid reflux and food intolerances

Reflux, sometimes called heartburn, is a common symptom of food intolerances. Essentially it’s caused by a reduced digestive capacity, which means you have low stomach acid and inadequate digestive enzyme production. 60% of reflux cases come from poor diet and lifestyle choices, which includes undiagnosed food intolerances. Let’s take a look at reflux and reflux diet, what it is and how food intolerances contribute.

What is reflux?

Acid reflux occurs when stomach acids leave the stomach and come up through the oesophagus into the throat. Your stomach has a protective lining which keeps it safe from stomach acids. Unfortunately, the oesophagus does not have this protective layer. Therefore when reflux occurs, it causes a burning sensation, sometimes very severe. The acids can also damage the oesophagus tissue. Reflux also causes nausea, pain between the shoulder blades, belching, and other painful symptoms.

How do food intolerances cause reflux?

This depends on what the food intolerance is. However, in all food intolerances, there is a level of systemic inflammation within the body. This can be targeted at the digestive tract, weakening the stomach and the sphincter at the top of the stomach, which keeps food and acid inside. When the acid spills out of the stomach due to a weakened sphincter, reflux is the unfortunate result.

Two intolerances that are well known to cause reflux are lactose and fructose.

With lactose intolerance, your body has a deficiency in the enzyme lactase. This essentially means that you can’t break down the milk sugar called lactose. We delve deeper into this in our article titled ‘Lactose FAQ’. When you consume milk, your digestive tract can’t break it down. This puts pressure on your stomach, and the sphincter, and reflux can occur as a result.

Fructose intolerance occurs when the body cannot readily absorb fructose; the sugar found naturally in fruits and vegetables. Similar to lactose, the inability to digest this sugar puts pressure on the intestines and stomach. The inflammation also weakens the stomach and sphincter, causing reflux as the stomach contents spill out into the oesophagus. You can read more about fructose intolerance in our ‘Fructose FAQ’.

A more severe condition can occur with gluten intolerance and celiac disease that is undiagnosed. When gluten products are consumed, the lining of the intestines and stomach become compromised. The small intestine is where we absorb most of our nutrients from the foods that we eat. When it becomes damaged, malnutrition can occur. This lack of nutrients within the body can cause damage to the stomach and oesophagus, weakening them both. Reflux can then arise as a result, and the body can be severely limited in its healing capacity. An unfortunate cycle of reflux and damage can continue until the underlying cause of the reflux is found and treated.


What else aggravates reflux?

Aside from undiagnosed food intolerances, there are several other well-known aggravating factors that make reflux worse. They are:

  • Caffeine – taken excessively, caffeine can cause nasty reflux flare-ups.
  • Alcohol – similar to caffeine, alcohol can cause flare-ups of reflux and heartburn.
  • Smoking
  • High-fat foods
  • Overly spicy foods
  • High protein foods

If you are experiencing reflux, it is recommended that you avoid all of these aggravating factors. If you still don’t find relief, there are some things you can do to reduce your symptoms.

How can I ease my reflux?

Firstly, we recommend that you see your doctor to get a diagnosis. Reflux can be caused by many things, so it is important to find out the underlying cause. A Naturopathic doctor is a particularly good option here, as they will be able to help you find the root cause and treat or remove that.

In the meantime, there are some things that you can safely try at home to reduce your reflux. Everyone is different, so it will be trial and error to find what works best for you. Here are our top tips:

  • Avoid or reduce caffeine to only 1 caffeinated beverage per day.
  • Reduce your portion sizes at mealtimes. Having small regular meals can help some people, and it is much easier on digestion.
  • Chew your food slowly and thoroughly. The more you can break it down in your mouth, the less work your stomach has to do.
  • Try taking digestive enzymes with each meal. They can be especially beneficial if your reflux is accompanied by bloating and lower digestive cramping.
  • Take a vitamin C supplement once per day. It helps to repair connective tissues, which are found in your gut. Lower levels of this vitamin are also associated with reflux.
  • Liquid Zinc is another supplement that can be very beneficial for reflux sufferers. It assists in the production of digestive enzymes and stomach acid. Be sure to take it on a full stomach to avoid any nausea.


In summary, today we’ve delved into acid reflux and its relationship to food intolerances. Reflux occurs when stomach acids spill out of the stomach and into the oesophagus and throat, causing a burning sensation and other awful symptoms.

There can be many reasons why reflux occurs, and they include things like:

  • Caffeine
  • Spicy foods
  • High-fat foods
  • Too much food in one sitting
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol

Undiagnosed food intolerances can also be the cause. If you suspect that this is the case for you, we strongly encourage you to get your food intolerance test HERE today and get to the bottom of your symptoms.

In the meantime, we discuss some simple things that you can do at home to reduce your reflux symptoms and find some relief. As always, we hope this article is helpful and informative.

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