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Food Myths Debunked: Does Hot Water Really Stop Acid Reflux?

7 minute read


If you’re one of the approximate 60 million American sufferers of acid reflux and/or GERD, you’re probably looking for a way to relieve your symptoms without medication.

One of the popular pieces of advice you’ll hear is to drink hot water or water of any temperature to cure the symptoms of your acid reflux. Before you warm up your teapot, we’ve got some bad news, this may not be the case.

Drinking water, hot or otherwise, to cure acid reflux and GERD will not work. But that doesn’t mean you should avoid water, in fact, you should keep drinking as much as you can. It’s confusing, but we’ll explain why the advice seems too contradictory.

What Are Acid Reflux and GERD?

First, it’s important to define what acid reflux and GERD are. The terms are used synonymously on a regular basis, but there is a difference.

Acid reflux is the backward flow of stomach acid, back up into the esophagus. Acid reflux can happen once in a while when you eat something that doesn’t agree with you, or it can happen regularly.

Chronic acid reflux progresses to GERD or gastroesophageal reflux disease. This is a more serious condition and can include symptoms such as difficulty swallowing or feeling like there is a lump in your throat, coughing, clearing your throat repetitively, wheezing, and even chest pain.

If you have occasional acid reflux, avoiding trigger foods might be your best plan of action. You can also lose weight, eat smaller meals, avoid alcohol, and quit smoking.

Over the counter medications like antacids, H-2 receptor blockers, and proton pump inhibitors can help.

If you suspect that you have GERD or you’re suffering from acid reflux on a regular basis, it’s best to speak to your doctor. Left untreated, GERD can result in irreversible damage to your esophagus, which can leave you more vulnerable to cancer.

Your doctor can determine if a prescription medication is needed. In some cases, GERD is treated with surgery.

Does Water Help Acid Reflux?

If you’ve had a little bout of acid reflux, where it felt like you vomited in your mouth just a little bit, then your first instinct was probably to drink some water. Your mouth tastes awful, your throat burns, and you feel like you want to push that acid back down where it belongs. In this situation, most definitely a glass of water can help. It can clear your throat and give you quite a bit of relief.

While water can help you recover from a bout of acid reflux in the situation above, it certainly didn’t prevent it from happening, and it doesn’t stop it from happening again. Drinking water will simply flush out the acid that’s come up through the esophagus.

To further evaluate the effects that water has on GERD, not just acid reflux, a study looked at water and the stomach’s pH levels. The study found that water increased the gastric pH levels in most of the subjects after one minute, which was much faster than the time medications brought relief.

But what’s important to note is that the change water brought to pH levels only lasted about three minutes, and the change made by medications lasted much longer. Sometimes these changes lasted until the end of the predetermined study recording time.

This study seems to concur with our previous statement that water can help when an acid reflux bout comes on, but it will only help briefly. The good news is that it may help until a medication kicks in to combat the acid. The bad news is this study was very small, and further research is needed to validate the results.

Does Water Cause Acid Reflux?

While it does seem like water can help with acid reflux a little bit right at the onset, there is no proof that it can prevent or cure this problem.

Some websites claim that drinking too much water can actually cause acid reflux by filling the stomach and making it easier for the contents in it to come back up into the esophagus. There’s a bit of truth to this.

A couple of things your doctor will recommend if you’re diagnosed with GERD is to slow down when you eat, chew food thoroughly, and take smaller bites. They may also suggest eating much smaller meals but having more of them in the day. This is all meant to keep your stomach from getting too full.

Drinking lots of water while you eat can fill your stomach and cause a bit of acid reflux. But drinking a glass of water by itself does not cause reflux because water is easily absorbed by an empty stomach, and it won’t prompt the stomach acids to begin working.

| Related: Does Sugar Cause Acid Reflux? Facts & Foods to Avoid |

What Beverages Help/Hurt Acid Reflux?

If you have acid reflux, you might be thinking that if water can both help and hurt, what should you drink? The following list gives you a place to start, but because each person is unique, you’ll need to experiment a little bit to figure out what works for you and what doesn’t.

Drinks to Avoid With Acid Reflux

♦ Alcohol

♦ Carbonated beverages

♦ Caffeinated beverages

♦ Chocolate drinks

♦ Citrus juices

Drinks That May Soothe Acid Reflux

♦ Ginger tea

♦ Yogurt

♦ Milk

Kefir

The Bottom Line

If you have acid reflux, there is something to be said for drinking water after an initial episode, but water cannot cure or prevent the problem. At best, it can help for a few minutes and can help cleanse your mouth and throat.

If you have acid reflux to the point that you have GERD, then your doctor should be consulted as this is a serious problem that can lead to irreversible damage if left untreated. Water most certainly cannot cure or prevent GERD.

While there are some beverages that can bring on a bout of acid reflux, there are some others that can help soothe the symptoms, but there has been no evidence to show that drinking anything alone will prevent this condition. The best way to control acid reflux and GERD is through medically guided management, diet, and lifestyle changes.

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