Is Milk Good For Acid Reflux?

Is Milk Good For Acid Reflux?

What Is Acid Reflux?

Acid reflux, also called gastroesophageal reflux disease in medical terms, is a clinical condition that occurs when the stomach contents reflux or flow back into the esophagus. The backflow of stomach contents, which is also accompanied by gastric acid into the esophagus, irritates the epithelial lining of the esophagus resulting in the most peculiar symptom of acid reflux, heartburn.

The junction between the lower end of the food pipe and stomach is guarded by a sphincter called the lower esophageal sphincter. This sphincter opens when food passes from the mouth and esophagus into the stomach. The commonest identified cause for gastro-esophageal reflux disease to occur is the dysfunction of the lower esophageal sphincter.


Signs And Symptoms Of Acid Reflux

  1. Heartburn is the most common symptom of acid reflux. Patients describe this as a burning sensation in the chest or behind the breast bone which ascends to the throat, especially after meals.
  2. Chest pain may be present in the center of the chest
  3. The sensation of a lump in the throat medically termed as globus.
  4. Regurgitation of swallowed food and drinks.
  5. Patients who have severe acid reflux may also experience nausea and vomiting
  6. Some extra-oesophageal symptoms may also be present, such as;
    • Chronic irritating cough which gets worse from each reflux
    • Constant hawking or attempting to clear the throat
    • Poor or disturbed sleep due to worsening of reflux from lying on the back
    • Patients with bronchial asthma may complain of aggravation of their complaints due to acid reflux.

Foods That Trigger Acid Reflux

People who experience acid reflux regular may notice worsening of their symptoms from the below-mentioned food and drinks;

  1. Coffee and other caffeine-containing drinks relax the lower esophageal sphincter temporarily. This results in temporary dysfunction of the sphincter with subsequent regurgitation of gastric content.
  2. Citrus fruits and juices contain citric acid which may irritate the esophageal lining resulting in pain.
  3. Tomatoes that are fresh, canned or pureed or foods that are prepared using too many tomatoes or ketchup can worsen acid reflux as they are highly acidic.
  4. Carbonated or aerated drinks, the so-called fizzy drinks cause bloating and gaseous distension which exerts pressure on the lower esophageal sphincter, allowing gastric contents to reflux into the esophagus.
  5. Foods like garlic and onions relax the lower esophageal sphincter temporarily which allows gastro-oesophageal reflux.
  6. Patients with acid reflux must refrain from eating fatty and oily foods as such foods relax the lower esophageal sphincter. This causes delayed emptying of gastric contents thereby increasing the risk of acid reflux.
  7. Chocolates, similar to coffee, temporarily relax the lower esophageal sphincter due to a compound called methylxanthine present in it.

Is Milk Good For Acid Reflux?

In India, people generally prefer to chug down a glassful of cold milk when they experience heartburn which does give temporary relief. However, few people may notice an aggravation of their complaints. This is because full-fat milk contains an ample amount of fats and proteins which may worsen the symptoms of acid reflux. People with acid reflux can consume low fat or fat-free milk. Also, the milk must preferably be lukewarm or cold.

The majority of the Indian population consumes milk right from their childhood without any significant adverse effects. But with the drastic change in lifestyle and dietary choices, milk allergies and lactose intolerance are being increasingly identified and addressed with more people opting for vegan food choices.

These days, the markets are loaded with vegan options for cow or buffalo milk such as soy milk, almond milk, cashew, hemp, rice or coconut milk. These varieties of milk have become increasingly popular and also have their own set of health benefits and may also be beneficial for acid reflux.

On the contrary, a study was published in 2011 wherein the researchers attempted to establish a relationship between cow’s milk and gastro-oesophageal reflux.

  • The study included 81 children with symptoms of acid reflux.
  • All children under study were given omeprazole along with a regular intake of cow’s milk for a period of four weeks.
  • 27 out of 81 children continued to experience acid reflux in spite of being on medical treatment.
  • After this, the researchers eliminated cow’s milk from these 27 children’s diet following which the participants showed a significant improvement in their signs and symptoms.
  • This observation led to the conclusion that acid reflux could be related to milk allergy.
  • Therefore, the question “does milk help acid reflux?” is a relatively subjective question that can only be answered by people who consume milk; on one hand where some people notice a marked relief of acid reflux, others may be allergic or intolerant to milk knowingly or unknowingly. In such cases, milk may also become one of the triggering factors for acid reflux.

Tips To Manage Acid Reflux

  • Avoid eating large meals, especially at night. Large meals delay gastric emptying due to which food remains in contact with the stomach for a long time.
  • The basic aim of treating acid reflux is to identify the triggering factors like the list of foods mentioned above and to avoid those.
  • Cut down on cigarette smoking. Cigarette smokers
  • Lose weight. Obese or overweight people are more likely to develop acid reflux due to a condition called hiatus hernia.
  • Bicarbonates present in chewing gums help to relieve acid reflux temporarily.
  • Avoid going to sleep at least 2-3 hours after a meal.
  • Drink plenty of water. Water has a neutral pH which helps to dilute the acidic gastric juice.
  • Alkaline water is a newer trend that has a slightly alkaline pH which may be beneficial for people with acid reflux.

Conclusion

Some precautionary measures along with avoidance of triggering factors generally alleviate the symptoms of acid reflux. However, patients must consult a gastroenterologist if the symptoms persist for a longer duration or become more severe over time for a more suitable approach and treatment.

Author:

Dr. Himanshi Purohit

Dr. Himanshi is a Homeopathic consultant currently working as a lecturer in Post-graduate faculty of Homeopathy, Parul University, Vadodara.