The Relationship Between Dairy and Acid Reflux

 

Dairy is not typically identified as one of the causes of acid reflux, but some people may still experience it when eating dairy foods.  People who experience acid reflux after eating dairy products can instead opt for lower fat dairy options or alternatives to dairy.

People with heartburn may experience a burning sensation in the chest that moves up into the neck and throat.  This sensation is due to acid from the stomach rising into the esophagus, or food pipe.

The esophagus does not have the same protection as the stomach against acid and digestive enzymes, so contact with stomach juices can damage its lining.

People may have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) if they experience:

  • frequent heartburn symptoms
  • chronic sore throat
  • bad breath
  • difficulty swallowing
  • the feeling of food sticking in the throat or chest

Some people also get a sour or bitter taste in their mouth. This taste comes from the acid that has made its way to the back of the throat. Sometimes, symptoms can last for several hours.

The job of the lower esophageal sphincter is to keep the stomach contents from rising into the esophagus. If the sphincter becomes weakened, stomach juices can make their way into the esophagus and cause heartburn.

Relationship between dairy and acid reflux

Some foods can weaken the lower esophageal sphincter, making it easier for the contents of the stomach to reach the esophagus.

The American College of Gastroenterology’s clinical guidelines for the diagnosis and management of GERD do not list dairy as a cause of heartburn. However, high fat dairy products, such as whole milk and yogurt, can relax the sphincter, potentially leading to heartburn.

Other foods that can relax the lower esophageal sphincter include:

  • onion, garlic
  • peppermint, coffee, chocolate
  • fatty foods
  • spicy & fried foods

Some doctors recommend avoiding all foods that cause acid reflux. However, this may not be necessary as some people with heartburn can tolerate some of the foods on this list.  People who experience heartburn should keep track of the foods that cause their symptoms and avoid those foods.

Lactose Intolerance

People with lactose intolerance have difficulty digesting the lactose in dairy products. If they eat these foods, they may experience:

  • abdominal bloating
  • abdominal pain
  • nausea
  • vomiting

People sometimes refer to these symptoms as heartburn, but the medical community does not consider acid reflux to be a symptom of lactose intolerance.

Possible health benefits

Many dairy products are healthful and make a great snack. They are also an excellent source of calcium and vitamin D.

However, people with heartburn may develop acid reflux symptoms after eating dairy because of its high fat content.

Individuals who are keen not to avoid dairy completely may find that replacing high fat dairy products with lower fat varieties helps reduce acid reflux.

At Pacific Eye & Ear Specialists, we employ thorough evaluation and treatment regimes. Call our office today for an appointment with one of our Los Angeles ENT physicians and Audiologists.

If you have any questions, feel free to call us at (310) 477-5558.

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