If you frequently struggle with indigestion, you know that certain foods can trigger painful heartburn—even some of the healthiest ones out there. While most of us are aware of the fact that eating fatty fried foods can lead to uncomfortable indigestion (not to mention a range of other health consequences) there are plenty of otherwise healthy foods that can throw a wrench in your day with some seriously uncomfortable side effects. Unfortunately, this includes on common breakfast ingredient: citrus fruit.
No one wants to start their day with heartburn, which is why steering clear of citrus fruits like orange and grapefruit may be a good idea if you suffer from frequent indigestion. To learn more about how citrus can lead to this issue, we spoke to health experts Anastasia Gialouris, MS, RD, CDN, CPT and Functional Medicine Gut Health Consultant Kelsey Mauro. Read on for all of their insight—including some suggestions for tasty alternatives!
Citrus fruits like orange
There are tons of health benefits to oranges and other citrus fruits; they’re packed with immune-boosting vitamin C, they can help fight inflammation, and they’ve even been shown to prevent serious disease like diabetes and cancer. However, despite all these upsides, you may want to be wary of adding this tasty fruit to your plate in the morning if you commonly struggle with indigestion—especially when it comes to heartburn.
Gialouris says those who suffer from Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) might want to avoid citrus, which is a common trigger food for this issue. “Normally, the LES should ‘relax’ and open to allow food to flow from the esophagus into the stomach, and then close to prevent food and stomach acid from flowing back up into the esophagus. Unfortunately, that is not the case with GERD, and several foods [such as citrus] exacerbate the issue,” she explains. “The acidity of these fruits causes the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) to relax, leading to a back flow of stomach acid into the esophagus, and to that signature ‘heartburn’ associated with indigestion.”
Mauro echoes Gialouris’s warning: “Many times people eat oranges on their own or add the juice to a smoothie and this can cause indigestion,” she says, citing the acid of this fruit as the main issue. “Oranges are a citrus fruit that are highly acidic which can cause your stomach to produce too much acid, therefore causing indigestion.”
Alternatives to citrus
Of course, fruit is still an important part of a healthy diet and makes an especially great addition to breakfast. If you’re avoiding citrus in order to keep indigestion at bay, there are several low-acid fruits you can consider. “To avoid the burn, those with GERD should stick to non-citrus fruits, as they tend to be less acidic. These include bananas, berries, apples, pears, grapes, and peaches, to name a few,” Gialoruis says. Mauro offers a few other options: “Good alternatives include blueberries and kiwis as they are alkaline fruits which can help remove unwanted acid.” Got it!