Q. I am interested in identifying foods that would be bad for someone with acid-reflux related conditions like GERD and Barrett's Espophagus. Is there something on NutritionData.com that would tell me if a food is acidic and should be avoided?

A: Nutrition Data doesn't show the acidity (pH) of foods. However, acidic foods are not what causes GERD (reflux) or heartburn.

The burning sensation and other symptoms of reflux occur when stomach acid backs up into the esophagus. Your stomach is supposed to be acidic! Acid helps to break down foods (especially proteins) for digestion and also has the important job of killing any pathogenic micro-organisms your food might contain.  In fact:

People who take acid-blocking medications have a much higher risk of food poisoning.

Anyway, this acid doesn't come from foods you eat. It's produced by cells in the stomach. And as long as it stays in your stomach, there's no problem because the cells lining the stomach are specially designed to withstand the corrosive effects of stomach acid. 

The lining of the esophagus is much more delicate, however. Normally, a tight ring of muscle called the lower esophageal sphincter, or LES, keeps things moving one way.  Food is allowed to pass through the LES into the stomach but acid is prevented from moving up into the esophagus. If the LES fails to close tightly enough, that's when problems occur. 

Pharmaceutical therapies for GERD aim to reduce the amount of acid in your stomach so that when it seeps through the LES to the esophagus it doesn't do as much damage. But reducing stomach acid has other consequences. Reducing stomach acid also impairs your ability to digest your food and absorb nutrients.  For example:

People taking acid-suppressing drugs absorb less calcium and have an increased risk of bone fractures.

So the real question you want to ask isn't "Which foods are acidic?" or even "How can I reduce the amount of acid in my stomach?" but "How can I keep my stomach acid in my stomach where it belongs?"

Try these natural steps to relieve reflux:

  1. Avoid clothing that's very tight around your middle. Tight waistbands or belts can squeeze the stomach, forcing the contents up against the LES.
  2. Avoid overfilling your stomach.  Large meals also put pressure on the LES.
  3. Don't lie down after eating. Let gravity help keep stomach contents where they belong.
  4. Maintain a health body weight.  Excess abdominal fat can put pressure on the stomach contents and cause reflux

Foods that aggravate reflux

People with reflux are often advised to avoid coffee, tomatoes, and citrus juice.  But it's not because these foods are acidic. Rather, it's because they tend to relax the LES.  If you suffer from reflux, you also may want to avoid peppermint, caffeinated beverages, alcohol, and tobacco, all of which also tend to relax the LES.

In my experience, these steps can frequently resolve chronic reflux. If you've had reflux for a long time and your esophagus is showing signs of damage, your doctor may want you to take an acid-suppressing drug to allow the damage to heal. But, in my opinion, acid-suppression should be a short-term intervention, not a permanent solution.

Find More on MSN Health: