Starch & acid reflux

wheat image by Artur Ciba from

Acid reflux, colloquially known as heartburn, has many causes, and diet is cited by many patients as a trigger for attacks of heartburn. Starch, in its many forms, may play a role in many acid-reflux sufferers' symptoms, either as a trigger or as a diet alternative to curtail heartburn attacks.

Sources of Starch

Starch is a carbohydrate manufactured by all plants with greens, and is a primary source of carbohydrates in the American diet. Nearly every vegetable and fruit product we eat contains starch, from grains like rice and wheat to fruits and vegetables as diverse as potatoes and apples. This high-energy carbohydrate is so prevalent in American food products that adopting a low- or non-starch diet takes careful consideration or planning.

Triggers of Acid Reflux

Scientists aren't exactly sure why acid-reflux patients react differently to foods, but many triggers for acid-reflux attacks are individualised by patient. Some researchers suggest a link between genetics and an acid-reflux reaction to starches, though many acid-reflux patients complain of symptoms following meals of entirely different components than starch. A food diary is usually the best way track your attacks and, over time, determine what triggers heartburn.

Gluten Sensitivities and Celiac Disease

Some acid-reflux patients may suffer from gluten sensitivities that trigger heartburn attacks. Gluten is an organic compound found in starches like wheat, barley and rye, which in patients with coeliac disease causes an autoimmune reaction targeting one of its chemical components where the body's defences turn against digested food. Although this condition is usually confined to lower intestines, some patients report improved acid-reflux conditions after switching to a gluten-free diet that substitutes rice and corn starches for wheat.

Food Balance

Other studies suggest that acid reflux can be a delayed reaction after eating proteins and starches at the same time. Proteins require an acidic stomach to digest, while starches need a basic stomach to digest. When both types of food are eaten simultaneously or close together, in some people the acidic and basic enzymes used to digest these foods cancel each other out, creating a neutral stomach environment in which food doesn't digest quickly. As it sits in stomachs, bacteria in half-digested food grows, triggering an autoimmune response that causes acid-reflux disease. Eating proteins and starches in different sittings may help eliminate acid reflux symptoms in this type of patient.

Protein Consumption

Because the stomach needs an acidic environment to digest proteins, eating them triggers the creation of acidic stomach enzymes. In some patients, the stomach overproduces these stomach acids, which, in turn, leads to heartburn. By including more starches in their diet, these acid-reflux sufferers may reduce symptoms.