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Is apple juice good for heartburn?

Heartburn is a common condition that many people experience from time to time. It is characterized by a burning pain in the chest or throat after eating. Heartburn occurs when stomach acid backs up into the esophagus. While heartburn is unpleasant, it’s usually not a sign of anything serious. Making dietary changes can help prevent and relieve heartburn. One question that often comes up is whether apple juice is good or bad for heartburn.

What Causes Heartburn?

The main cause of heartburn is stomach acid refluxing up into the esophagus. When you swallow, a ring of muscle at the bottom of the esophagus (lower esophageal sphincter) normally relaxes to allow food and liquid to flow down into the stomach. Then, it tightens back up to prevent contents from leaking out of the stomach and back into the esophagus.

With heartburn, this muscle temporarily relaxes when it shouldn’t or is weak, allowing stomach acid to flow back up into the esophagus. This exposes the lining of the esophagus to stomach acid, causing irritation and pain.

Some factors that can contribute to acid reflux and heartburn include:

  • Eating large meals
  • Lying down too soon after eating
  • Snacking close to bedtime
  • Eating fried, spicy foods
  • Drinking alcohol, coffee, carbonated beverages
  • Being overweight
  • Smoking
  • Pregnancy
  • Some medications like NSAIDs

Does Apple Juice Help or Worsen Heartburn?

When considering if apple juice is good or bad for heartburn, there are a few factors to take into account:

Acidity

Apple juice has an acidic pH, averaging around 3.3 to 4. Generally, the lower the pH, the more acidic something is. For comparison, stomach acid pH averages 1.5 to 3.5.

So while not as acidic as stomach acid, apple juice is still considered acidic. Acidic foods and drinks tend to aggravate heartburn symptoms. They can increase stomach acid production and reflux.

However, apple juice is not as acidic as many other juices like orange, grapefruit, pineapple, and tomato juice. So it may be less bothersome than other juices if consumed in moderation.

Sugars and carbs

Apple juice contains natural sugars and carbs. These can cause increased gastric pressure in the stomach, which can promote acid reflux. Apple juice has about 24 grams of sugar and 60 calories per cup.

Compare this to whole apples, which have around 15 grams of sugar and 80 calories per medium apple. The fiber in whole apples helps slow digestion and nutrient absorption, while juicing strips away this beneficial fiber.

So while apple juice contains some beneficial nutrients from apples like vitamin C and polyphenols, whole apples would be better tolerated by those prone to heartburn.

Beverage (1 cup) Calories Sugar (g)
Apple juice 60 24
Orange juice 112 21
Grapefruit juice 96 25
Pineapple juice 133 25

Other factors

Aside from acidity and sugars, some other factors related to apple juice and heartburn include:

– Drinking cold apple juice could provide temporary relief by soothing the irritated esophagus. However, room temperature juice may be better tolerated.

– Commercial apple juices are often filtered, removing pulp and fiber. So they lack the fiber of whole apples that could help reduce reflux.

– Some store-bought apple juices have preservatives and additives like potassium sorbate and ascorbic acid that can trigger heartburn in sensitive people.

– Fruit juices in general are less filling than whole fruits and foods. So drinking apple juice alone could allow your stomach to get too full of liquid, increasing reflux.

Tips for Preventing Heartburn from Apple Juice

If you find that drinking apple juice causes heartburn, here are some tips that may help:

– Have no more than 4-6 ounces (1/2-3/4 cup) at a time. Larger amounts are more likely to cause problems.

– Drink apple juice well chilled. Cold beverages can provide temporary symptom relief.

– Avoid drinking on an empty stomach or too close to bedtime, as having an empty stomach allows more reflux.

– Use a straw to minimize contact of the apple juice with the esophagus.

– Mix apple juice with water or carbonated water to dilute the acidity.

– Avoid drinking apple juice within 2-3 hours of taking supplements, other acidic juices, coffee, alcohol or known heartburn triggers.

– Drink apple juice along with antacids or after taking acid reflux medication to reduce symptoms.

– Stick to fresh, low-sugar varieties and avoid juice with added sugars or preservatives.

– Drink apple juice with a snack or meal to reduce gastric pressure rather than on its own. Pair with yogurt, cereal, crackers, peanut butter, etc.

– Try chewing gum after drinking apple juice, as chewing gum stimulates saliva production which can help neutralize stomach acid.

Alternative Drinks for Heartburn Sufferers

If apple juice consistently triggers heartburn for you, some safer alternative beverages may include:

– Water – Staying well hydrated is key when dealing with heartburn. Plain water is pH neutral and doesn’t affect stomach acid. Add lemon, mint, cucumber or fruit slices for more flavor.

– Milk – Milk provides temporary buffering from stomach acid and can coat and soothe the esophagus. Go for low-fat or nonfat milk.

– Herbal tea – Teas like chamomile, ginger, peppermint and licorice root may ease heartburn symptoms. Avoid large amounts of black tea.

– Low acid vegetable juice – Try small amounts of cucumber, carrot or celery juice.

– Oat milk – This plant-based milk is mildly alkaline and low in fat.

– Aloe vera juice – May coat and soothe the esophagus.

– Baking soda and water – Helps neutralize stomach acid instantly. Use occasionally when needed.

Summary

While apple juice is less acidic than many other juices, its acidity, natural sugars and lack of fiber still pose potential heartburn risks. Drinking large amounts, especially on an empty stomach or before bed, is most problematic. Having 4-6 ounces with meals or snacks is likely to be better tolerated. Those with frequent heartburn issues may be better off choosing alternative beverages that are lower in acid and sugar, or eating whole apples. Use the preventive tips mentioned to minimize the chance of apple juice triggering reflux symptoms. Speak with your doctor if lifestyle changes don’t resolve your heartburn.