Foods to Avoid With Proton Pump Inhibitors

What you eat – and how and when you eat it – can make a big difference in how effective your PPI is at relieving your symptoms.

Are you taking your PPI consistently, but still not having complete relief of your symptoms? Maybe it's what you’re putting in your mouth. Your diet and eating habits can actually make your digestive condition worse.

There are a couple of ways certain foods can cause problems. Some may relax the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) — a muscle that acts as a valve between your esophagus and stomach. If this muscle relaxes and doesn’t close properly, acid can reflux back up into the esophagus. Also, some foods may irritate the damaged lining of the esophagus or stomach.

Learn about foods and ways of eating that may be causing you to reach for those extra antacids.

Acidic Foods

You may want to think twice before sitting down for a big pasta dinner or an all-you-can-eat pizza buffet. Tomato-based products, such as sauces, are acidic foods that may increase reflux symptoms and cause stomach irritation. Other acidic culprits include citrus fruits like grapefruits, lemons, oranges, and their juices.

Big Portions

Eating large portions of food can lead to indigestion and increase the pressure in the stomach, pushing acid into the esophagus. To avoid this discomfort, eat smaller, more frequent meals.


Spearmint and peppermint extracts are used in many foods, but unfortunately, they may exacerbate the symptoms of GERD. Mint may relax the muscles in the gastrointestinal tract, including the LES. But don’t put away your mint-flavored gum just yet! Studies show that chewing gum for one hour after a meal reduces acid reflux. Gum is thought to work by increasing saliva production, which helps to neutralize acid.

Caffeine and Carbonation

That morning cup of coffee or afternoon soda may be causing you discomfort. Caffeine is thought to increase acid levels and relax the LES, which can aggravate an existing ulcer or worsen acid reflux. Some studies show that even decaf coffee may relax the LES. Carbonated beverages, such as sodas or carbonated waters, may lead to acid reflux by increasing the pressure in your stomach.


Fatty foods trigger reflux symptoms by decreasing the pressure of the LES. Eating too many fatty foods can increase digestive symptoms and may lead to weight gain. There is a link between being overweight and GERD. Studies show that obese people with GERD who lose weight have significant improvement in their symptoms. If you have recently gained weight and your clothes are too tight, this too may be making your symptoms worse. Tight-fitting clothes put pressure on the stomach, causing acid to flow into the esophagus.

Hot, Hot, Hot!

Spicy foods can make your heartburn and stomach pain sizzle. Foods with a little kick are often responsible for GERD symptoms. Although spicy fare may irritate the stomach of people with ulcers, it does not cause ulcers. Actually, people with ulcers do not need to follow a bland diet, as previously thought. However, if a specific spicy item does cause problems, it may be a good idea to avoid that food.


Are you a chocoholic? Be careful, because those little treats you are allowing yourself could wreak havoc on your esophagus. Chocolate aggravates GERD by relaxing the LES. That chocolate snack may be particularly problematic at night time.

Bedtime Snacks

Snacking late may increase the risk of nighttime heartburn. To avoid this nocturnal discomfort, don’t eat two to three hours before lying down to sleep. Raising the head of your bed may also help to keep the acid in your stomach where it belongs.


Having a few drinks this weekend? Before mixing that martini, think about the consequences. Alcohol may trigger GERD symptoms in three ways:

  • Increasing acid secretion
  • Relaxing the LES
  • Slowing the movement of food through the gut


One study showed that men who drank alcohol and smoked were more likely to have GERD. Smoking contributes to digestive problems by increasing acid secretion, relaxing the LES, and decreasing saliva (saliva neutralizes acid). Smokers are more prone to ulcers, and smokers and drinkers may take longer to heal when they have an ulcer.

Know Yourself and Communicate With Your Doctor

We are all individuals. Not everyone will have the same reaction to each food. The best way to determine your food triggers is to keep a food and symptom journal--write down what you eat, how much you consume, and how you feel afterward. You may soon be able to identify the foods or habits causing you to take those extra antacids. Make sure to talk to your health care provider if you are not experiencing relief from your symptoms despite being on a PPI.

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