Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a common digestive disorder affecting millions of people worldwide. It occurs when stomach acid frequently flows back up into the esophagus, causing symptoms like heartburn, regurgitation, and chest pain. Diet plays an important role in managing GERD. Certain foods can trigger or worsen acid reflux, while others may help relieve symptoms.
So what about apples? Are they safe for people with GERD to eat? Keep reading to learn more.
What is GERD?
GERD develops when the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) does not close properly after food passes through it into the stomach. The LES is a ring of muscle that acts as a valve between the esophagus and stomach. When it relaxes inappropriately or weakens over time, stomach acid can reflux back up into the esophagus.
This acid reflux causes irritation and inflammation of the esophageal lining, resulting in symptoms like:
- Regurgitation of food or sour liquid
- Sensation of a lump in the throat
- Chest pain
- Difficulty swallowing (dysphagia)
- Chronic cough or sore throat
GERD is a chronic condition that usually requires long-term management. Anti-reflux medications, lifestyle changes, and sometimes surgery can help control symptoms.
Dietary triggers of GERD
Certain foods and beverages are common triggers for acid reflux and GERD flares. These include:
- Coffee, tea, carbonated drinks
- Spicy, fried, or fatty foods
- Garlic, onions, peppermint
- Citrus fruits and juices
- Tomato-based foods
These foods tend to relax the LES, delay stomach emptying, or irritate the esophagus. Quitting smoking and losing excess weight can also help reduce GERD symptoms.
Are apples acidic?
Apples have a pH ranging from 2.9 to 3.3, making them acidic fruits. However, the organic acids found in apples have a low dissociation constant, meaning they are weak acids that do not fully dissociate into hydrogen ions.
The primary organic acids in apples are:
- Malic acid – gives apples their tart flavor
- Ascorbic acid (vitamin C)
- Citric acid – found in smaller amounts
Compared to citrus fruits like oranges and grapefruits, apples are considered a low-acid fruit because their organic acids are weaker. The pH of apple juice tends to be around 3.4 to 4.0, higher than orange juice which is typically between 3.0 to 3.8.
Can people with GERD eat apples?
Most people with GERD can eat apples in moderation as part of an overall GERD-friendly diet. Here are some tips on incorporating apples into your diet if you have acid reflux:
- Eat apples by themselves as a snack, not part of a larger meal – Less food in the stomach means less risk of reflux.
- Avoid apples before bedtime – Lying down soon after eating makes reflux more likely.
- Bake or cook apples instead of eating them raw – Cooking softens apples and makes them easier to digest.
- Remove apple skin, especially if raw – The skin contains more acids and fiber that may irritate the esophagus.
- Choose low-acid apple varieties like Fuji, Golden Delicious, Gala, and Honeycrisp.
- Avoid drinking apple juice – Juices have higher acidity and faster transit times, raising reflux risk.
Organic green apples are often recommended for an acid reflux diet since they are one of the least acidic varieties. Just be sure to take them without the peel.
Benefits of apples for GERD
Although acidic, apples offer some potential GERD benefits including:
- Fiber – Soluble fiber in apples may help absorb excess stomach acid and relieve reflux symptoms. Apples contain pectin, a soluble fiber.
- Potassium – Apples are a good source of potassium, an alkalizing mineral that can help neutralize stomach acidity.
- Low acidity – The malic acid in apples is weaker than other fruit acids, making them less likely to aggravate reflux.
- Water content – Apples are high in water, which helps dilute stomach acid and improve acid clearance.
One small study in 2006 found that eating apples helped induce alkalization in healthy adults, suggesting a potential benefit for acid reflux. More research is still needed though.
Risks of apples for GERD
While apples are usually well-tolerated, they could potentially trigger symptoms in some GERD patients due to:
- Acidity – Although less acidic than citrus, apples still contain organic acids.
- Fructose – Apples contain fructose, a natural sugar that may worsen reflux in some people.
- Fiber – The skin’s insoluble fiber can aggravate the esophagus.
- Fermentable oligosaccharides – Apples contain FODMAPs, which may cause bloating.
For some individuals, even low-acid foods can provoke reflux if consumed in large amounts. Pay attention to your own tolerance level.
Tips for eating apples with GERD
Here are some tips for incorporating apples into an acid reflux diet:
- Eat apples by themselves between meals as a snack.
- Avoid eating apples right before bedtime or lying down immediately after eating them.
- Cook apples by baking, sautéing, or boiling to soften them.
- Remove apple peels, especially when eating raw.
- Choose low-acid varieties like Fuji, Gala, Golden Delicious, Honeycrisp.
- Drink water after eating apples to dilute acidity.
- Limit apple juice and cider, which contain more concentrated acids.
- Take apples with protein like nut butter to slow digestion.
- Avoid apples if you have a known fructose malabsorption problem.
The bottom line
Most people with GERD can eat apples in moderation as part of a GERD diet. Apples are one of the least acidic fruits and offer benefits like fiber, potassium, and water content. However, apples may trigger reflux in some people sensitive to acids, FODMAPs, or fructose. Monitor your own tolerance. Stick to low-acid varieties without skins, and avoid drinking apple juice.
|Apple Variety||Acidity Level|
This table shows some common apple varieties ranked by their acidity levels. Fuji, Gala, Golden Delicious, and Honeycrisp tend to be the least acidic. Green apples and McIntosh are generally the most acidic.