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Why is ice cream bad for acid reflux sufferers?

Updated July 19, 2017

Ice cream by itself is not bad for acid reflux sufferers. There are, however, anatomical and environmental factors that can exacerbate acid reflux. The primary advice is this: If eating a certain food aggravates your acid reflux, then you should avoid that food.

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General Anatomy

The lower esophageal sphincter (LES) is a muscular valve at the bottom of the oesophagus. When you swallow, the LES briefly opens to allow food through and then closes until you swallow again. Acid reflux occurs when the LES doesn't close properly, allowing stomach acids back into the oesophagus.

Muscle Tone

Fatty foods, such as ice cream, lower the muscle tone of the LES. Reduced muscle tone makes it difficult for the LES to stay closed when it should, resulting in stomach acid backing up through the LES.


Ice cream is a comfort food that people eat when they are stressed. Stress causes digestion time to slow. The longer food is in your stomach, the longer active stomach acids are present, and the more likely it is that they will back up into the oesophagus.

Time of Day

Ice cream is a typical evening dessert or snack. Eating and then immediately lying down promotes the situation where stomach acid flows back into the oesophagus.

Gastrointestinal Gas

Lactose, one of the ingredients in ice cream, can cause gastrointestinal gas. Gas can make you burp, and burping can trigger reflux.

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About the Author

Susan Roberts

Susan Roberts has more than 15 years of marketing, business and technical writing experience. Her business writing has appeared in online trade publications such as TechWeb and ComputerWorld. In 2009 she began publishing online articles in categories including healthy living, family and food and wine. Roberts has a Bachelor of Arts in technical writing/mass communication from Texas Tech University.

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