Some people often talk about how eating ice cream can cause heartburn. Is this true? We have found through our survey that, yes, that is true in some cases. But how exactly does it cause heartburn? Do all ice creams cause heartburn?
Let’s find out in this article.
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Does Ice Cream Cause Heartburn?
There are multiple responses to this question.
Some doctors argue that ice cream can improve heartburn. What is the explanation for this?
1. Milk is an antacid.
Ice creams that are made from milk are effective antacids. This means that milk can neutralize the natural production of stomach acid, temporarily relieving the pain caused by excessive acidity.
2. Ice cream is cold.
Low temperature usually provides good relief for inflammation. For example, if you have twisted ankles, it is a good idea to apply ice packs over the area to make it number and less painful.
The same idea can apply to an acidic stomach. However, if it is too cold, it can also cause some problems, which we will explain later.
There are many written accounts of symptom improvement on user-based websites such as Quora and Reddit that, when all else fails, having a nice scoop of ice cream now and then seems to relieve heartburn.
However, some will say that ice cream worsens heartburn, which we will explore in the next segment.
Why Do I Get Heartburn After Eating Ice Cream?
How does this happen? Before we go on to explain why heartburn happens after we eat ice cream, it’s good to get a simple understanding of how heartburn happens in the first place.
We have a stomach and an esophagus (the food pipe). Between the stomach and esophagus, there is a junction known as the esophageal sphincter, which will be referred to as a muscle from here onward.
Heartburn happens when too much stomach acid is produced, and it can get worse when the muscle is relaxed, because then the stomach acid can go up into the food pipe, damaging that area.
So what happens when we eat ice cream? And how does it cause heartburn?
1. A temperature too low can inhibit the sphincter function.
Cold dairy products like ice cream can numb and inhibit the esophageal muscle’s function, making it weak. As a result, stomach acid can reflux up into the esophagus much more easily.
2. Ice cream is high in fat.
Like all dairy products, ice cream is rich in fat, which means that they slow down the digestion of food, making reflux more likely to occur.
3. Ice cream is acid-forming.
While ice cream itself is not acidic, it can stimulate acid production from the stomach.
There is no surprise, then, with all of these reasons, that some people complain about feeling worse after eating ice cream.
It goes without saying that ice cream, as well as other high-fat and high-sugar foods, when consumed excessively, is not good for health at all.
But we also understand the human need to taste something cool and sweet at the end of a long day of work, so we think it best to only have a scoop or two once in a while.
What Ice Cream To Avoid For Acid Reflux ?
Like we mentioned earlier, too much of something is never good. But these ice creams we have listed right here should be avoided as much as possible for heartburn patients. You will see why in the explanations below.
1. Citrus Flavor Ice Cream
In case it is not yet obvious at this point, citrus, which can directly cause damage by being acidic to the stomach, should be avoided at all costs by those suffering from GERD.
A citrus flavor ice cream will worsen GERD by increasing the acidity of the stomach, as well as by relaxing the sphincter, and is certainly not a good idea for reflux patients.
2. Frozen Ice Cream
The lower the temperature of the ice cream, the more likely it is to cause your muscle to loosen. A frozen ice cream tub taken right out of the freezer, while tempting, may not be the best option if you are dealing with GERD.
It may be a good idea, therefore, to allow ice cream to warm up to room temperature before consuming it.
We have previously published an article which discussed about the storage of ice cream in the freezer. You may find it helpful if you are curious about how long ice cream is good for in the freezer.
What Ice Cream Is Good For Acid Reflux?
As we have mentioned previously, generally speaking, ice cream should only be consumed in moderate amounts because it isn’t a particularly nutritious food. It’s very high in calories and can cause indigestion, so if your acid reflux and GERD symptoms are severe, it might be best to steer clear of this dessert altogether.
However, it can be difficult to resist the temptation of a good cup of ice cream, especially on a warm summer day, right?
Therefore, we think it best to make the right choices for ice cream when it comes to dealing with GERD.
1. Vanilla ice cream
Vanilla is basically cold or frozen milk.
Milk has antacid properties which make it really ideal for battling against the excessive stomach acid production that is happening in GERD patients.
Milk is rich in calcium and protein, both of which, after metabolism, help prevent acid buildup in the body and absorb excess acid to reduce symptoms of acidity.
Compared to the other mouthwatering flavors, vanilla is milder in flavor, which means there are likely to be less artificial additions in it, making it an overall better option for anyone, heartburn or not.
We have found here a good vanilla ice cream on Amazon, which claims to have no artificial flavors or colorings, that you might be interested in purchasing to satisfy your cravings.
2. Dairy-free vegan ice cream
As we mentioned earlier, dairy can be high in fat, and high-fat foods are harder to digest and therefore stay longer in the stomach. Most ice creams contain dairy, but in recent years, vegan ice cream is becoming more and more prominent in the market, and for very good reasons.
Dairy-free, vegan ice cream is not only a better choice for GERD, it is also a good choice for those who are lactose intolerant.
There is an ice cream we found on Amazon which is low-carb, sugar-free, and also dairy-free, which may be a good choice for anyone who is suffering from GERD or heartburn.
I Don’t Eat Ice Cream Anymore, Why Do I Still Have Heartburn?
It is important to know that heartburn can be caused by several factors. If you feel like ice cream has been the cause of your heartburn and you have been avoiding certain ice cream but feel like your heartburn is still not improving even after a few weeks, why is that?
This might be because there are other factors worsening your heartburn.
Based on our research, here are five types of people who are more at risk of getting heartburn than others:
1. Alcohol drinker
Alcohol causes heartburn in two ways: it increases stomach acid production, and it also relaxes your sphincter muscle.
The chemicals in tobacco cigarettes cause heartburn in the same way as alcohol. Additionally, it also slows down saliva production, which usually acts as a protective mechanism for the esophagus.
3. Eating habits
People who eat very close to bedtime or those who lie down immediately after meals tend to have heartburn or GERD more often than others. The same happens to those who consume a large amount of food in one meal. This increases the acid production by the stomach.
Having a full stomach also tends to force the sphincter open, which causes acid to reflux up into the esophagus.
4. High abdominal pressure
Being overweight or obese can cause GERD also. This is because the fat accumulated in the abdominal wall can increase the amount of pressure upwards onto the stomach, forcing the sphincter to open.
Pregnant women are also at higher risk of heartburn. This is perfectly logical since having a baby in your tummy can often cause an upward pressure on the stomach
5. Certain food preferences
People who like to eat certain foods tend to have more heartburn flare-ups than others. We will discuss this in the next segment.
Related: Causes and Risk Factors of Heartburn
What Other Foods Flare Up Heartburn?
Other than what we’ve mentioned above, there are certain foods that are best avoided if possible as they can make heartburn worse.
Here are seven foods that you should avoid if you have heartburn:
1. Coffee, tea, and other caffeinated drinks
Caffeine is a double downer: it causes increased acid production as well as the weakening of the esophageal sphincter muscle.
Chocolate causes the sphincter to relax and therefore allow acid to reflux.
3. Citrus fruits and juices, tomato, and tomato-based products
These high-acid products directly worsen heartburn with their acidic contents.
4. Carbonated drinks
The gas produced by carbonated drinks causes bloating of the stomach, which forces a certain amount of pressure on the sphincter, causing it to open slightly and allow acid to reflux.
5. High-fat foods
Foods that are high in fat tend to make it slower for the stomach to digest them. When foods stay longer in the stomach, there is increased pressure, which can cause the sphincter to open up, and reflux then happens.
This is a controversial one. Some say it weakens the muscle in the same way that chocolate does, but some say that its stimulation of saliva can help neutralise the stomach acid produced.
7. Spicy foods and black pepper
These also cause increased acid production which can make a GERD patient suffer more than they already do.
In summary, we would argue that ice cream can be good for heartburn patients only if the right types of ice cream are consumed in the right way and amount. Switch out your usual dairy ice cream for a tub of dairy-free, vegan ice cream, and make sure it’s not too cold when you start eating it.
Moderation is the most important thing to consider when eating anything. In small amounts, food does not pose a health risk. Ice cream consumption should be restricted at all times, but when you do crave for it, we hope that this article has been helpful to you in some ways.
It is important for us to remind you, however, that this is not a medically certified post. If you have any concerns about your heartburn or GERD, it is always best to get a professional consultation from a doctor near you.