Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a common digestive disorder that affects around 20% of the population. It occurs when stomach acid frequently flows back up into the esophagus, leading to symptoms like heartburn, regurgitation, and chest pain. While medications can help manage GERD symptoms, some people prefer to try natural remedies as well. One food that is often recommended for GERD is apples. But how exactly do apples help with GERD? Keep reading to learn more.
One of the main ways apples may help with GERD is by reducing acidity in the stomach. Apples contain malic acid, which has an alkalizing effect on digestive fluids. This means it can help neutralize stomach acid and reduce the overall acidity. Less acidity means less risk of the acid flowing back up through the esophageal sphincter.
In one study, patients with GERD were given an apple to eat before meals. The apple helped increase the pH in the stomach, decreasing the acidity levels. This then led to significantly less reflux symptoms for the patients.
Apples are also high in soluble fiber, particularly pectin. Pectin is a type of fiber that has some useful effects on digestion.
First, pectin can help move food through the digestive tract more quickly. This means any stomach acid is less likely to sit in the stomach and have the chance to reflux up into the esophagus.
Second, pectin acts as a buffer to help neutralize stomach acid itself. It helps dilute and clear out excess acid in the stomach.
Together, these mechanisms make apples an asset for improving acid reflux issues. The pectin fibers help reduce risk factors that allow stomach acid to splash up into the esophagus.
The soft, almost creamy texture of apples may also help soothe GERD discomfort. Acid reflux can irritate the esophageal lining and cause uncomfortable symptoms like burning and pain with swallowing.
When you eat an apple, the smooth, moist texture can coat the esophagus and temporarily protect it from stomach acid. This provides a soothing effect for the irritated tissues.
Apples are also high water content fruits. The juice can help dilute stomach acid when it refluxes up, reducing its potency and ability to cause damage.
Eating apples may also benefit GERD by promoting more thorough chewing. Apples require a lot of chewing to break down completely. This slower, more deliberate eating gives your brain more time to register fullness and signal your stomach to stop producing excess acid.
Overeating or eating too fast both contribute to acid reflux symptoms. Apples encourage a slower, more mindful approach to eating. This allows the body to digest food more gradually, preventing an overload of acidic stomach contents that are more likely to regurgitate up through the weakened sphincter.
Carrying excess weight, especially around the abdomen, is a risk factor for acid reflux. The extra weight places more pressure on the stomach and can cause the sphincter muscle to relax, allowing acid to reflux up. Losing weight can help take some of this pressure off.
Apples are low calorie, high fiber fruits that can aid weight loss efforts. Fiber helps you feel fuller for longer, reducing appetite and decreasing calorie intake throughout the day.
One study found that eating three apples (or pears) per day led to modest weight loss over a 12 week period compared to a control group. The fruit eaters lost an average of 2 pounds (1 kg).
So incorporating more apples into your diet can potentially lead to gradual weight loss, which then reduces acid reflux over time.
When to Eat Apples
To maximize the benefits of apples for acid reflux, they are best consumed in certain scenarios:
– Before meals – Eating apples before a meal, especially dinner, can help reduce acidity in the stomach and prepare the digestive tract to better handle the upcoming influx of food.
– Between meals – Snacking on apples between meals helps cleanse the mouth of acids and stimulates saliva production, which contains bicarbonate to neutralize stomach acid.
– Apart from trigger foods – If you have trigger foods known to cause reflux (like acidic foods, coffee, etc.), separate apple consumption from these items to maximize acid reduction capabilities.
– At the onset of symptoms – The pectin and pH balancing effects of apples make them a quick acting remedy to help relieve mild reflux symptoms.
Best Ways to Eat Apples
There are many ways to incorporate more apples into your diet. Here are some of the best preparation methods:
– Raw – Eat apples raw with the skin on to get the most fiber and nutrient benefits. Wash thoroughly.
– Baked – Baking apples boosts the availability of antioxidants. Enjoy with cinnamon and walnuts for a sweet treat.
– Applesauce – Made with peeled, cored apples. Has a smooth, creamy texture. Add cinnamon or ginger for flavor.
– Juiced – Use a juicer to extract the liquid from apples. Consume 1-2 cups diluted with water daily. Add lemon for more alkalizing power.
– Cider vinegar – Contains the mother apple cider vinegar has many health benefits and can further help improve digestion.
Foods to Avoid
While apples can be used as a dietary addition to help manage GERD, there are also several foods best avoided:
– Caffeine – Found in coffee, tea, soda. Relaxes the esophageal sphincter.
– Alcohol – Cause irritation and increase stomach acid production.
– Citrus fruits – The high acid content can aggravate reflux symptoms. Grapefruit, oranges, lemons.
– Fatty and fried foods – Slow digestion and relax the sphincter. French fries, burgers, bacon.
– Garlic and onions – Known to provoke heartburn and regurgitation.
– Chocolate – Contains compounds that can loosen the sphincter muscle.
– Pepper mint – Relaxes the esophageal sphincter and promotes reflux.
– Tomatoes – Highly acidic and a common heartburn trigger.
Apple Nutrition Facts
Here is an overview of the key nutrients found in raw apples with skin (based on a medium sized apple weighing 182 grams):
|Manganese||0.1 mg (4% DV)|
|Vitamin C||8.4 mg (9% DV)|
Apples are very nutrient dense and provide a good dose of daily fiber, vitamins, and minerals. The fiber content comes from both soluble pectin fiber and insoluble cellulose and hemicellulose fibers. About 2/3 of an apple’s fiber is insoluble while 1/3 is soluble pectin.
The vitamin C content also helps boost immune function and provide antioxidant activity.
Apples contain only trace amounts of fat and protein. The main natural sugar is fructose, along with some glucose and sucrose.
Despite the sugar content, the fiber helps slow absorption of the sugars, preventing major spikes in blood glucose. The glycemic index ranges from 29-44, which is very low.
There are thousands of different apple varieties, but some of the more common types include:
– Red Delicious – Sweet, mellow taste. Medium acidity.
– Gala – Sweet with hints of pear. Smooth texture.
– Fuji – Very sweet, crisp. Low acidity.
– Granny Smith – Tart, crisp. High acidity. Good for baking.
– Honeycrisp – Very crisp and juicy. Mildly sweet taste.
– Braeburn – Firm, crunchy. Balanced sweet-tart flavor.
– Pink lady – Crisp, sweet-tart. Distinct pink color when ripe.
Any apple variety can provide health benefits. Try different types to find your favorites. The sweeter and less acidic varieties may be best for reducing reflux symptoms.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is another way to utilize the health benefits of apples. Made from fermented apple cider, ACV provides probiotics and acetic acid that can improve digestion.
ACV may help strengthen the esophageal sphincter and prevent acid reflux symptoms. It also contains pectin from the apples that can help soothe the irritated esophageal lining.
Add 1-2 tablespoons ACV to a glass of water and drink before meals. You can also use ACV in salad dressings and other recipes. As with apples, it helps to drink ACV apart from high acidic foods for maximum effectiveness.
For more concentrated effects, apple cider vinegar is also available in pill supplement form. Supplements provide a consistent dose and avoid the sour vinegar taste.
Look for options containing 500-750 mg of ACV powder per capsule. Follow package directions, but a typical serving size is 1-2 capsules taken just before meals.
There are also apple extract supplements that provide polysaccharides and polyphenols derived from apples. These may offer antioxidant and prebiotic benefits. But more research is still needed on these types of supplements.
Other Tips for Managing GERD
Along with eating more apples and drinking ACV, here are some other ways to prevent acid reflux flare ups:
– Don’t eat within 2-3 hours of bedtime
– Avoid tight fitting clothes
– Achieve or maintain a healthy body weight
– Quit smoking and limit alcohol intake
– Limit beverage intake during meals
– Chew gum to increase saliva production
– Elevate the head of your bed 6-8 inches
– Manage stress levels
– Take walk breaks during the day
See a doctor if lifestyle changes alone don’t provide GERD relief. You may need an evaluation to check for complications like esophageal strictures or Barrett’s esophagus.
Apples are an alkaline fruit that can help neutralize stomach acid and relieve GERD symptoms. Their high fiber and water content also promote digestive health. Eat apples before or between meals to maximize acid reducing capabilities. Additionally, apple cider vinegar contains beneficial probiotics and pectin that can strengthen the esophageal sphincter and prevent acid reflux. Combine dietary and lifestyle changes, like adding more apples, with medical care for the most effective strategy to manage GERD.