Bread is one of the most delicious and addicting foods on the market. You can eat it with almost anything from hams and other types of meat to jams and nutty creams.
It’s a staple in most households and available in all grocery stores. But, if you suffer from acid reflux, you might have noticed that consuming too much bread gives you bad heartburn.
Is there a reason behind it? Or is it just a coincidence? Why exactly does bread give you heartburn?
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Why does bread cause heartburn?
Bread, especially white bread made of refined grains, is loaded with carbohydrates and is low in essential nutrients.
Carbs are harder for your stomach to digest, which causes excess stomach acid production – the leading cause of heartburn.
Also, the lack of important vitamins and minerals means there’s nothing to protect your digestive system from inflammation.
Along with a hard-to-digest compound called gluten, this makes bread more likely to cause heartburn than other foods.
What is the pH level of bread?
Bread, including most of its varieties, has a pH level of around 5.00-6.53. While this isn’t exactly low, most bread types have acid-forming properties, which means they increase the production of stomach acid, leading to acid reflux symptoms, including heartburn.
Because of that, if your symptoms are particularly bad, it might be best to limit or completely eliminate bread from your diet.
Even though most bread types are acid-forming, some types contain essential nutrients, which may help neutralize stomach acids and prevent severe acid reflux symptoms.
To reap those benefits, make sure to reach for whole-grain bread that’s rich in nutrients as opposed to white bread that doesn’t contain many vitamins and minerals.
This is because a diet rich in whole grains is not only healthy but also helps alleviate acid reflux and GERD symptoms, such as heartburn.
Is bread healthy?
Bread, especially white, contains barely any fiber. This carb is essential for the health of your digestive system as it not only soaks up excess stomach acid but also feeds the ‘good’ gut bacteria in your stomach that prevent inflammation and reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Consuming fiber also prevents overeating by helping you feel full after a meal. This is important for acid reflux since studies found a correlation between weight gain and severe acid reflux symptoms, which include heartburn.
White bread is also high in gluten, which may cause indigestion and allergic reactions in some people.
For example, celiac disease – an autoimmune disorder in which consuming gluten damages intestines and decreases nutrient absorption – is becoming increasingly more prevalent among people.
This, in turn, can further worsen your acid reflux symptoms and cause extensive inflammation.
Because of that, even though you may not suffer from celiac disease, limiting gluten consumption is a good idea, especially if you already have some stomach problems.
Another interesting thing about bread is that it may contain antinutrients – compounds from grains that prevent your body from absorbing certain minerals.
Specifically, white bread contains a high amount of a certain molecule that prevents the absorption of iron, zinc, magnesium, and calcium, which are all essential for good health.
One slice of white bread contains around 67 calories. This is a lot considering that most people usually eat more than one slice for a meal.
What’s more, most of these calories come from refined carbs, including starch, which is very hard for your stomach to digest.
It requires more gastric acid that can then reflux up your esophagus and lead to heartburn and other issues. As a result, consuming white bread isn’t particularly healthy and beneficial for your well-being.
Can you make bread easier on your digestive system?
The best way to make the bread easier to digest is by consuming healthier bread types, such as sourdough or whole-wheat, whole-grain bread.
These kinds of bread are higher in nutrients and minerals that help protect your digestive system from damage and inflammation.
These benefits help ensure that your acid reflux and GERD symptoms aren’t too severe and may even prevent them from occurring too frequently.
These can help you feel full, which prevents overeating, and can also add essential nutrients that protect your digestive system and prevent heartburn.
Adding some protein and healthy fats also contributes to reaching your dietary goals and adds flavor to your meal.
What type of bread doesn’t give you heartburn?
If you love bread and can’t imagine your life without it, there are still some ways to include it in your diet without worsening your acid reflux symptoms.
Firstly, it’s important to stay away from white bread, which contains very few nutrients and, most importantly, fiber that is essential to help soak up excess stomach acid.
White bread is also made primarily of refined grains, which tend to worsen acid reflux symptoms and cause bad heartburn.
Instead, studies show that people suffering from acid reflux may benefit from incorporating whole grains into their diets.
For example, one slice of whole-grain bread is an excellent source of selenium, thiamin, manganese, magnesium, and niacin, among others.
These nutrients help protect your digestive system from damage and inflammation, thus reducing the risk of heartburn and other symptoms.
Certain types of bread, particularly white made with refined grains, can worsen your heartburn for various reasons, including high gluten and carb content, low fiber content, and the fact that they contain antinutrients.
Because of that, it’s important to limit how much white bread you’re consuming.
You can also replace it with whole-grain bread, with some healthy fats and protein on top that contain essential nutrients, especially if you can’t stay away from bread. Or, why not make it yourself?
Here's the bread maker I'm using. It takes up a minimal amount of space in the kitchen and is extremely easy to use after the first couple of tries.