Though uncomfortable, acid reflux is a common condition that affects more than 15 million Americans daily.
It occurs when stomach acid or bile flows into the food pipe and irritates the lining, causing heartburn and sometimes additional bothersome symptoms. Thankfully, there are many ways to treat and soothe the symptoms of acid reflux, including over-the-counter (OTC) medications and drinks you can take at home.
However, not all drinks will help acid reflux. In fact, some can make the symptoms worse.
Learn more about what to drink and what to avoid for managing acid reflux.
What is Acid Reflux?
Acid reflux refers to the condition when stomach acid flows back up into the mouth through the esophagus (food tube). This occurs when the valve at the end of the esophagus doesn’t close properly when food enters the stomach.
Gastrointestinal reflux disease (GERD), on the other hand, refers to chronic acid reflux which leads to irritation and inflammation of the lower portion of the esophagus.
Symptoms of Acid Reflux
The main symptoms of acid reflux can include:
- Heartburn (a burning or painful feeling in the chest, experienced usually after eating)
- Chest pain or burning that worsens when lying down or bending over
- Bitter, hot, sour, acidic, or unpleasant taste in the mouth
- Sore throat
- Pain or discomfort that appear after a large or spicy meal
Additional symptoms that are often a sign of chronic acid reflux, or GERD, are:
- Difficulty swallowing
- Throat pain
Causes of Acid Reflux
For many, acid reflux is triggered by lifestyle and diet habits.
You are more at risk for developing acid reflux if you:
- Eat large portions of food in one sitting
- Eat spicy, fatty, or greasy foods
- Eat acidic foods such as tomatoes or citrus fruits
- Eat close to bedtime
- Drink large amounts of caffeinated, alcoholic, or carbonated drinks
- Experience stress
- Wear tight-fitting clothes
However, acid reflux can also be caused by other conditions, including:
- Too much acid in the stomach
- Delayed stomach emptying
- Poor clearance of food or acid from the esophagus
- Anxiety or depression
- Hiatal hernia
Though everyone can get acid reflux from time to time, GERD is a chronic condition that can lead to more serious problems if not treated.
What to Drink
There are some drinks that you can take at home to try and soothe your heartburn and acid reflux.
However, some of these drinks don’t have enough evidence behind them to demonstrate their efficacy at soothing or treating acid reflux.
So keep in mind that it may take some trial and error to find the right drink that works for your symptoms. And in some cases, you may want to speak to a provider who can recommend over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription medications.
There are many herbal remedies that have been used to treat heartburn, but there is little scientific evidence to confirm the effectiveness of most. In fact, tea consumption, due to its caffeine content, has been reported to be associated with higher levels of acid reflux and GERD in some communities.
However, some non-caffeinated herbs used in herbal teas may be calming to the digestive tract, specifically chamomile and ginger.
Several studies have also shown licorice to be effective in increasing the mucous coating of the esophageal lining, which can counteract the irritating effects of stomach acid.
Research shows that food high in fat and calcium is associated with a higher risk of acid reflux and GERD.
Because regular milk is both high in fat and high in calcium, this suggests it could be a triggering food for acid reflux. However, research also shows that a low-fat diet probably helps decrease symptoms of acid reflux. So if milk is an essential part of your daily diet, switching to low-fat milk may help to reduce your risk of developing heartburn symptoms.
Acidic foods and drinks should be avoided if you suffer from acid reflux, including orange and grapefruit juices.
There’s little evidence that non-acidic fruit juices will help acid reflux, but if juice is part of your regular diet, switching to non-acidic options like carrot or watermelon juice may help to reduce the risk of developing acid reflux and the severity of symptoms.
There’s little to no evidence that drinking smoothies will soothe or treat acid reflux. However, eating smaller portions as well as balanced meals that include vegetables, proteins, and fruits is recommended for people who experience acid reflux.
What’s more, drinking non-caffeinated smoothies without citrus fruits may help to slow down digestion, which could help to prevent future acid reflux.
In general, drinking water can help balance the pH of a particularly acidic meal, which may help to lower the risk of acid reflux.
Studies show that drinking mineral water with a high hydrogen carbonate content can help to alleviate the frequency and severity of acid reflux.
Studies have shown that drinking alkaline water, including coconut water, can have therapeutic benefits in people with acid reflux.
Drinks to Avoid
Understanding which drinks can trigger or exacerbate acid reflux can help you avoid its uncomfortable symptoms.
Several studies show that drinking alcohol, even in moderate amounts, can worsen symptoms of indigestion by increasing stomach acid and overly relaxing the lower esophageal sphincter.
Research suggests that citrus juice, including the juice of oranges, lemons, and grapefruit, irritates the lining of the esophagus.
One study found that orange or grapefruit juice worsened the acid reflux symptoms of 72% of GERD patients.
Unfortunately, coffee and other caffeinated drinks are one of the most common triggers of acid reflux.
Sodas and Carbonated Drinks
Similarly to coffee and caffeinated drinks, sodas and other carbonated beverages are known to trigger acid reflux in many people.
Over-the-Counter Acid Reflux Treatments
If at-home drinks don’t work to keep your acid reflux at bay, there are some over-the-counter (OTC) treatments that can help.
Keep in mind that it may take a little trial and error to figure out what works best for you, and for severe or more frequent symptoms, prescription medication may be necessary.
OTC acid reflux treatment options include:
OTC antacids are usually the first-line recommendation for acid reflux and heartburn. They work by neutralizing acids in your stomach and can provide fast, short-term relief.
Antacids are available in multiple forms—chewables, dissolving tablets, and liquids. Some examples of antacids include calcium carbonate (Tums), simethicone (Mylanta), and sodium bicarbonate (Alka-Seltzer).
Like most medicines, antacid medications may cause side effects.
Though rare, the most commonly reported side effects of antacids and acid-reducing medications are:
If you experience one or more of the above side effects while taking an antacid or acid-reducing medication, they will likely go away on their own.
If side effects persist, reach out to your provider.
Histamine-2 (H2) Blockers
These medicines, available both by prescription and OTC, help reduce the amount of acid your stomach produces, which can help alleviate heartburn. H2 blockers don’t work as quickly to reduce heartburn as antacids, but the effect can last longer.
Examples of H2 blockers include famotidine (Pepcid AC), nizatidine (Axid AR), and ranitidine (Zantac 75).
Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs)
PPIs are especially effective at reducing stomach acid.
Your provider may recommend PPIs if antacids or H2 blockers have failed to resolve your symptoms.
Recently, some PPIs have become available OTC, including esomeprazole (Nexium) and omeprazole (Prilosec). Other PPIs, like rabeprazole (AcipHex), are only available with a prescription.
Side effects of proton pump inhibitors (PPI) may be more serious. Research shows that long term use of PPIs can lead to kidney problems, including kidney failure.
Experts recommend using PPIs only when necessary and, and PPIs are not intended for long-term or chronic use.
Importantly, you should not take PPIs if you are elderly, immunocompromised, postmenopausal, or have been treated for a Clostridium difficile (C. diff) infection in the past. Talk to your healthcare provider before taking any OTC heartburn medication.
When to See a Doctor
Many cases of mild acid reflux can be managed at home or with OTC medication.
But if you experience any of the below symptoms, reach out to your health care provider for customized medical advice:
- Unintentional weight loss or loss of appetite
- Bloody vomit
- Frequent vomiting
- Black, tarry stool
- Severe, constant stomach pain
- Difficulty swallowing that gets progressively worse
- Fatigue or weakness
- Shortness of breath, sweating, or chest pain that radiates to the neck, jaw, or arm
- Chest pain with stress or exertion
- Yellowing of the skin or eyes
- Heartburn or acid reflux symptoms that last longer than two weeks
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Frequently Asked Questions
K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.
K Health has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.
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Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD). (n.d.).
Herbal remedies for heartburn. (2021).
Over-The-Counter (OTC) Heartburn Treatment. (2021).
Popular heartburn drugs linked to gradual yet ‘silent’ kidney damage. (2017).
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