Common Acid Reflux Triggers

by Erica Sanderson Editor


You might think this refreshing herb would cool down heartburn and soothe reflux. Surprisingly, it does just the opposite. Mint relaxes the muscles in your esophagus, including the sphincter, so acid and other food remnants can flow back up to worsen reflux. Unfortunately, this includes anything mint flavored, such as tea, gum or candy.


Caffeine in general should be avoided when you have reflux. Coffee is not only caffeinated, but it can also be acidic—another reflux trigger. Try to kick the coffee habit by working out in the morning for a jolt of energy.


You know how a couple glasses of wine can be relaxing? Well, it has the same effect on your lower esophageal sphincter (LES). It also stimulates the production of stomach acid. Limit alcohol consumption and opt for healthier beverages instead.

Spicy foods

Spice is not always nice. It is one of the top triggers for reflux and heartburn. It’s best to stay away from Indian, Mexican or Thai foods. When you cook at home, opt for milder spices and lightly apply.


Tomatoes are known for their acidity. This includes all tomato-based foods as well, such as ketchup, marinara sauce and salsa.


Chocolate is a double threat: it contains both caffeine and is acidic. Giving up chocolate completely is impossible for some, so have milk over dark because it is less acidic. Eat it in small portions, sparingly.


Oranges and orange juice are high in acid and are more likely to trigger reflux. Reach for high alkaline foods instead that can balance out acid in the stomach. These include apples, pears, melons and bananas.

Dry meat

Trouble swallowing is a common reflux symptom. Meat that is dried out and overcooked can trigger this even more. Don’t overcook your meat and serve it with a sauce or juicy side dish.

Fried food

High-fat foods are harder on the system because they take longer to digest and put more pressure on your LES and stomach as a result. The longer food stays in your stomach, the more likely reflux is to occur. Fried foods also retain a lot of oil during the frying process, so try grilling or steaming instead.


Soda is another double whammy. It is loaded with caffeine and the carbonation can cause both heartburn and the bubbles to open up your esophagus, making you more susceptible to food contents coming back up.

Garlic and onion

These two toppings often trigger reflux and heartburn in people. They tend to be on the acidic side, so it’s best to avoid them and see how you feel once you’ve eliminated them from your diet.


People often forget that pepper falls under the spicy trigger category. But this common tabletop spice can be just as potent as cayenne for some, especially in heavy amounts. Use it lightly and sparingly.

Erica Sanderson
Meet Our Writer
Erica Sanderson

Erica Sanderson is a former content producer and editor for HealthCentral. Living with a chronic disorder that affects the lungs and instestine, Erica focused on covering digestive health and respiratory health. Topics included COPD, asthma, acid reflux, managing symptoms and medication.