Could your reflux be caused by a food intolerance?

Could your reflux be caused by a food intolerance?

By Allison Riehs | Naturopath


We’ve all experienced the discomfort of acid reflux and indigestion from time to time.

Namely after too much Christmas pudding, or that second slice of birthday cake.

Children and even infants can experience reflux too, after eating, and drinking formula or breastmilk.

But did you know reflux could be a sign of food intolerance?

Most people with reflux and indigestion think their symptoms are ‘normal’. 

While common, reflux is by no means normal. You don’t have to live with it, and the solution might not be what you expect.

All too often, I see people reach for antacids to deal with the problem, which is concerning given the growing evidence that antacids can cause cancer. 

If you or your child are regularly experiencing the sensations of regurgitation, food ‘repeating’, and burning in the oesophagus or throat, it might be worth investigating why.

What is reflux?

Reflux describes the action of stomach acids regurgitating from the stomach back into the oesophagus. 

This occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter is aggravated, weakened or doesn’t tighten properly, allowing stomach contents to move backwards. 

Symptoms of reflux include: 

  • heartburn
  • cough
  • sore throat
  • bitter or sour taste 
  • burning and pressure in the breastbone

If reflux regularly occurs more than twice a week, a diagnosis of GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) might be made. The lining of the oesophagus is not designed for the harsh acidic conditions of the stomach, and chronic reflux can lead to cancer, so it’s not something to be ignored.

Silent reflux is a term commonly used to describe the occurrence of reflux among infants, when stomach contents are regurgitated up the oesophagus but not out of the mouth. Silent reflux can sometimes be harder to diagnose because babies cannot communicate verbally, and the condition may present as ear, nose and throat issues or asthma.

Who gets acid reflux?

Acid reflux can occur in people of all ages including the elderly, adults, children and babies. 

Most people will experience reflux at some point in their lives, but some are at an increased risk.

What causes acid reflux?

There is no single cause for reflux, but factors that increase the risk of acid reflux include:

  • Obesity
  • Overeating
  • Physical activity or laying down shortly after eating
  • Pregnancy
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol
  • Coffee
  • NSAIDS like aspirin and paracetamol
  • Delayed stomach emptying
  • Triggering foods including fried, sugary and high-carb foods, and
  • Food intolerance

Studies have found the foods most likely to trigger reflux are cow’s milk, lettuce, coffee, brewer’s yeast, pork, tuna, rice, asparagus and eggs. 

How do I know if I have a food intolerance?

Surprisingly, people often don’t even suspect they have a food intolerance.

Some intolerances can cause mild or vague symptoms that become so common people perceive them as ‘normal’. 

If you’re regularly suffering from reflux, it could be a potential sign of an underlying intolerance.

My own daughter suffered with reflux for years and took proton pump inhibitor medications to no avail. 

As I began my journey into naturopathy, I started investigating dietary changes, eliminated her triggers, and soon discovered a significant improvement in her digestive health. 

A naturopathic approach to identifying food intolerance can involve testing and also trialling elimination diets. This might involve keeping a food diary to record meals and symptoms which reveals patterns about triggering foods. 

How do I treat acid reflux?

Given the increasing evidence of the carcinogenic effects of some antacid medications, more people are looking for natural remedies for reflux.

Naturopathy takes a preventive approach, focusing on removing and avoiding triggers, such as eliminating aggravating foods, eating a healthier diet, losing weight, stopping smoking, and having dinner several hours before bed.

For breastfed babies experiencing reflux as a result of food intolerance exposure, this may mean changing the diet for the breastfeeding mother.

While these approaches can often provide a fast resolution of reflux, the symptoms of esophageal damage can be prolonged. 

Naturopathy offers a range of ways to support gut health, and soothe irritation using a blend of nutritional supplements, herbal medicines and probiotics, personalised to the individual.

For natural support with reflux, book an appointment with Allison today.