All you STEM majors out there know that the stomach produces gastric acid, particularly hydrochloric acid, a strong acid with a pH level of around 2-3. This is perfectly normal as the stomach needs to be able to break down the food we eat. Sometimes the stomach produces way too much acid, and when that happens, it can be extremely painful, which is why we take Tums. Tums are composed of calcium carbonate, an antacid that neutralizes the acid in our stomachs. Fun fact: Tums are actually just chalk.
Hyperacidity usually happens when the band that contracts to prevent the gastric juices from entering the esophagus stops working. The fluids irritate the lining of the esophagus and cause heartburn. In my case, however, the stomach simply produces an excess amount of acid, causing acid indigestion and a severely upset stomach.
If you’re like me and have gotten rushed to the hospital at two in the morning because it felt like your digestive system was playing ping pong (or if you’re wanting to avoid that), you might want to keep an eye out for these foods.
Alcohol itself is an acidic liquid, as the ethanol present tends to increase acid content. In addition to these properties, it also dehydrates you severely, which can encourage poor digestion and increase the effects of acid reflux. If your stomach is feeling a little wonky on your next night out, it might be best to try a mocktail instead.
There are good fats, such as olive oil, avocado and salmon, but most fried foods are high in trans fats, which can cause difficulties in the digestive tract as they are heavier and harder to break down. These fats can leave excess acids that may make their way into the esophagus. Fear not, baked potatoes were always better than the fried ones anyways.
This is actually painful to write considering I am one of those people who could totally inhale 5 plates of brisket at a KKBQ (sorry, vegans). Meats that are richer in fats, such as beef and pork, create a larger amount of excess acid to be secreted into the esophagus. The next time you’re craving steak, try a filet mignon instead of a ribeye.
Most humans are already lactose intolerant. Milk and dairy products are high in fat and can cause excessive acid secretion. If you’re looking for something creamy for your potatoes, maybe try an almond or soy substitute instead.
While I am aware of the necessity of an iced vanilla latte for your 8 am calc class, I also know that coffee and tea relax the lower esophageal sphincter, which can allow acids to enter and cause secretion of the gastric fluids. Down a bottle of water instead, you’ll feel instantly refreshed, I promise.
It’s true, an apple a day does indeed keep the doctor away. In addition to apples are bananas, peaches, pears and watermelon. Low in acid and high in fiber, these fruits are the easiest on the digestive tract. Citrus fruits, such as lemons or grapefruit, seem like they would make your body more acidic, but they actually have an alkalizing effect on the body.
Mom said eat your vegetables for a reason. Reach for sweet potatoes, kale, spinach, beets, onions, cucumber, broccoli and cauliflower. Try baking, steaming, or boiling these vegetables as to avoid the addition of oils and fats.
Carbs are not the enemy as long as they are the right kind. Whole grains such as quinoa, whole wheat bread, brown rice, and oatmeal are excellent sources of fiber and are low in fat. These foods are unlikely to secrete acids into the esophagus and promote a smooth digestive system.
Fish and Seafood
Fish and seafood are excellent sources of low-fat protein and healthy fats that don’t leave you feeling extremely heavy. These should be grilled, baked or steamed, but never fried. I’m willing to bet that a shrimp scampi could rival any meat dish.
Unless you’re vegan, an alkali diet is pretty difficult to stick to. My suggestion would be everything in moderation; your esophagus will thank you. So I guess a cheeseburger would be fine with a side of baked sweet potato fries right? Small steps.