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What's Best to Drink If I Have Acid Reflux?

What's Best to Drink If I Have Acid Reflux?

At-A-Glance

  • The best beverage choices for the refluxer are water (preferably alkaline, pH 9.0-9.5), tea (no mint), and low-fat milk; almond, rice, and soy milk are most popular. I personally use unsweetened almond milk with vanilla for smoothies, etc.
  • Avoid virtually everything in a bottle or can except still water. All bottled and canned beverages are acidified by law to limit the growth of microorganisms. And sometimes the manufacturer is sneaky: “All Natural, All Organic. Vitamin C-Enhanced,” but what they are really doing is adding lots of ascorbic acid, which is actually vitamin C. One such coconut water I tested was pH 3.3, that same pH as stomach acid!
  • Avoid or limit alcohol and caffeinated beverages and completely avoid apple cider vinegar as well as all citrus juice or fruit.
  • The best thing you can drink is alkaline water, ideally pH 9.0-10.5.

What Is Best to Drink If I Have Symptomatic Acid Reflux?

Water: Most tap water and bottled water is around pH 7.0, and it is fine to drink, but not carbonated (no seltzer). Even better is alkaline water pH 9.0-10.5; see my alkaline water blogs: Alkaline Water For Reflux and Alkaline Water Is Safe. 

I am a big fan of the Cerra Water pitcher; I fill it every night and drink at least a pitcher's worth of pH 9.5 Cerra water every day. Although it costs a lot ($199 for the pitcher and several filters), it lasts. I test the pH of my Cerra water each month, and a filter lasts six months, so the pitcher and those refills will last you about two years (comes out to $8.30/mo.). This pitcher saves you hauling bottles of water all the time. Oh, one word of warning: do not put your Cerra water filter in the dishwasher, it will melt. Also, if you want inexpensive pH-paper to test your water and other things try this one

Herbal Tea: Best for the refluxer are non-caffeinated herbal teas such as chamomile, ginger, anise, slippery elm, and turmeric. Avoid any mint teas such as peppermint, as all mints are reflux triggers.

Coffee & Tea with caffeine: Even during the Induction (Detox) Phase of my reflux diet, I allow people a cup, or maybe two, of coffee in the morning. Lightly brewed black and green teas are also fine in moderation as they also contain caffeine. And while caffeine does relax the LES (lower esophageal sphincter), this effect is dose dependent. Indeed, if you used to drink a pot of coffee before noon, then you had reflux from that. See the highlighted blog on Coffee (caffeine). 

The amount of caffeine in one cup of coffee is rarely enough to upset the reflux applecart. That said, some people have coffee as a reflux trigger, and for them coffee, even decaf, must be avoided; see The Coffee Blog.  Similar to coffee, teas are permitted in moderation, but not manufactured/bottled ones that have acid added. I brew a pitcher of tea and leave it in my refrigerator so that I can have iced tea some of the time, and you can, too. 

Milk: Choose a milk option that is low-fat. Cow skim milk (1-2%) is fine, but even better choices are almond, soy, rice, flax, and oat milk. Again, avoid bottled products like coconut milk and aloe vera that have had acid added, again, usually Vitamin C, ascorbic acid.

Non-Acidic Fruit Juice: Remember, remember, remember, bottled and canned beverages are acidified because the FDA requires that it be done to kill bacteria. In any case, for the refluxer, all citrus beverages are already too-acidic even before bottling. Avoid lemon, lime, orange, tangerine, grapefruit, pineapple, or apple juices; those cause or worsen reflux. The best fruit juice choices are freshly-juiced banana, carrot, spinach, kale, aloe vera, watermelon, beet, cucumber, and pear … again, great for smoothies.

What Should I Avoid?

Avoid anything in a bottle or can except still water. In my book, Dropping Acid: The Reflux Diet Cookbook & Cure, I explain how we discovered the law that requires acidification of beverages in bottles and cans. Avoid all soft drinks: soda, energy drinks, fruit juices (including aloe vera and other otherwise good-for-reflux choices) as they have acid added by the manufacturer; today, most are pH 2.8-4.4, the same as stomach acid.

For the everyday refluxer, I recommend that you purchase pH paper to test things. If you are a serious refluxer, avoid everything pH 5.0. Actually, you can test about anything you consume; just wet the item and hold the pH paper in contact. All green veggies are fine, for example, all about pH 7.0.

Avoid or limit alcohol; if  you drink, make alcoholic beverage choices that are less likely to cause reflux; see Drinking Alcohol blog.

Finally, avoid apple cider vinegar and lemon juice. The entire thrust of my work is that Pepsin (that is stuck on your throat, for example) is activated by acid from any source, including what you drink. I don’t know how the "apple cider vinegar thing" got started, but it is a VERY BAD IDEA for people with acid reflux!

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When Jamie Koufman gives advice, you should listen.

Dr. Koufman has been a world-renowned pioneer in acid reflux for decades. Through her medical practice and scientific research, Dr. Koufman almost single-handedly advanced our understanding of the interaction between digestive and respiratory disease. She has won prestigious awards and is a New York Times best-selling author for her books on reflux and chronic cough.

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