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How to Eat Chocolate with Acid Reflux

How to Eat Chocolate With Acid Reflux | https://www.roseclearfield.com

I’ve had acid reflux my entire life. After a bad flare-up during my senior year of high school, I started taking medication and have been managing it actively ever since (~15 years). Until about 2010, taking medication and adhering to best acid reflux practices (i.e. not laying down after eating, not eating several hours before heading to bed) kept my acid reflux at bay the majority of the time. I didn’t have any food triggers.

Then one day, it was like a light switch flipped and chocolate started triggering reflux. I don’t think chocolate was the only thing triggering reflux during this period. But I went through a bad reflux flare-up, one of the worst I’ve had since high school. It was really frustrating, and the fact that chocolate was playing a clear role in it made the flare-up that much more frustrating.

I know not being able to eat chocolate is a first world problem. But when you love a food, and you can’t eat it anymore, it’s rough. I LOVE chocolate and for many years, would eat it daily. A little square of Dove dark chocolate is a great way to finish a meal. When I would order dessert at a restaurant or when I would have my choice of desserts at a party or other social function, I’d always go for the chocolate dessert.

After a fair amount of denial, ultimately, it got to the point that I felt bad enough that I knew something had to change. I quit eating chocolate daily and slowly started saying no to or taking a pass on chocolate elsewhere. My flare-up did subside, and I’ve been doing pretty well ever since. I still have an occasional rough reflux day (usually due to stress), but I haven’t had any other major incidents.

So why is this post called how to eat chocolate with acid reflux?

I gave up chocolate altogether, right? For several years, I did give up chocolate almost completely. Rich chocolate desserts were no longer appealing, and I really didn’t want another bad flare-up. I learned to enjoy lots of non-chocolate desserts, and many days, I honestly didn’t miss it.

However, avoiding chocolate altogether is still difficult because let’s face it: chocolate is an amazing food. It’s been over five years since my last bad flare-up and I have a much better understanding of when and how chocolate triggers reflux for me. Consequently, I’ve felt comfortable re-introducing it on a more regular basis. No, I don’t eat chocolate every day. And I’m pretty careful about what chocolate I eat, and when I eat it. But so far, reintroduction has been successful.

I know I’ve given a lengthy introduction before getting to my tips for how to eat chocolate with acid reflux. I think it’s important to understand where I’m coming from and that it’s taken me years of living with reflux to develop these strategies. I’m not just sharing a few quick tips I found from online articles. I’m sharing my tried-and-true tactics I’ve learned through many years of living with reflux.

Please note that I am not a physician. I have consulted with multiple physicians about reflux medications and symptom management strategies, which has helped guide my current medication regiment and general life routines. I can’t guarantee that any strategy that works for me will work for anyone else. If you ever have questions or concerns, please talk to your doctor.

Before I get into the tips for eating chocolate with acid reflux, I want to address one more point.

Which type of chocolate is best with acid reflux?

I get a ton of people arriving at this post who are looking for advice about which type of chocolate is best to eat if you have acid reflux or GERD. The short of it is that all chocolate is bad for acid reflux. Cocoa powder is acidic, which can trigger reflux. Chocolate contains caffeine and theobromine, which can further trigger reflux Additionally, chocolate has a high fat content, which may also heighten reflux symptoms. [Sources – 1 | 2 | 3]

With that being said, the sweeter the chocolate, the more it’s likely to trigger acid reflux. As such, dark chocolate may not trigger reflux as quickly or significantly as milk chocolate or white chocolate. I don’t provide this information as an invitation to eat as much dark chocolate as you like. Dark chocolate can definitely still trigger reflux, but it won’t trigger it as significantly. It’s also better for you than milk chocolate or white chocolate, which is a nice bonus.

Eat chocolate in small doses alongside non-reflux-triggering foods

I know eating chocolate in small quantities alongside foods that don’t trigger reflux sounds like a ridiculous strategy. But it’s been the single most effective way for me to re-introduce chocolate without triggers. Obviously, eating chocolate in small quantities versus large quantities is a good strategy in and of itself. Eating chocolate alongside another food or eating chocolate and then finishing a snack or dessert with something non-chocolate is almost guaranteed to squash any reflux that does start to creep up.

Personally, I love salty-sweet combinations so pairing a few squares of chocolate or a chocolate chip cookie with cashews or peanuts works well for me. Of course, you shouldn’t feel limited to this pairing. If you’re in a social setting with a big food spread, it’s often easy to eat a bit of chocolate and then finish snacking with a helping of fruit or veggies, which works really well, too.

Embrace favorite non-chocolate desserts to avoid getting depressed about the chocolate you can't eat, due to acid reflux. | https://www.roseclearfield.com

Embrace non-chocolate desserts

Embracing non-chocolate desserts don’t help you eat more chocolate, but it does make you more excited for the occasions you’ve avoiding chocolate. No, you aren’t going to eat the chocolate cake you love so much at your favorite restaurant. But you are going to eat their cheesecake, which is also amazing. Yum! While I do love chocolate desserts, there are lots of non-chocolate desserts I love, too. It’s so much more productive to get excited about desserts you love and can eat than get depressed over the desserts you love but can’t eat.

Don’t eat chocolate in combination with reflux-triggering foods

Say you have a mild to moderate dairy allergy. Having a bowl of macaroni and cheese or a slice of pizza is okay. But you don’t want to follow it with a huge serving of ice cream. The same principle applies to acid reflux. If you’ve just had a spaghetti dinner with lots of marinara sauce, onions, and garlic, don’t follow it up with chocolate. If you’re going to eat chocolate after dinner, don’t pair it with coffee or tea.

Prioritize chocolate over other reflux-triggering foods

Similarly, if you want to eat chocolate without triggering reflux, you may have to give up or significantly cut back on other reflux-triggering foods. If you have severe reflux, any trigger food may prove harmful, but for many people with reflux, there are ways to eat trigger foods in moderation without harmful side effects. In many instances, the prioritization may be as simple as choosing salmon and steamed broccoli for lunch instead of the spaghetti with marinara sauce so you can have some chocolate later that afternoon.

Prioritization does not mean that you can eat as much chocolate as you want without consequence. I wouldn’t be writing a 1,000+ word post on this topic if there were such an easy fix. Skipping the garlic and onion heavy entree will not give you some free pass to eat a huge amount of chocolate. Instead, it will allow you to eat a small serving without triggering reflux.

Homemade Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars | https://www.roseclearfield.com

Save chocolate splurges for chocolate you really love

When you can only eat a limited amount of chocolate each week, make it count. Don’t waste your chocolate intake on cheap candy or something you don’t really love. I used to take chocolate for granted. Now that I only eat it a few times per month, I appreciate it so much more. A huge part of this appreciation comes from choosing chocolate I love. When I eat a homemade chocolate chip cookie or a piece of high-quality dark chocolate with almonds, it tastes like the best chocolate I’ve ever had.

Avoid chocolate several hours before going to sleep

Eating several hours before going to sleep is a big no for acid reflux, so it goes without saying that eating chocolate several hours before going to sleep is a huge no. In general, I don’t eat chocolate after about 5:00 p.m. If you stick to this rule the majority of the time, most likely you’ll be able to break the rule once in a while, especially if you’re good about taking your meds and adhering to other acid reflux practices. Eating chocolate at night every night will leave you feeling lousy, but an occasional dessert at a restaurant or party will be okay.

Avoid chocolate during bad flare-ups

When you’re having a bad flare-up, it doesn’t take much to keep setting it off. Eating chocolate will further aggravate your symptoms, making them even worse. If you’re like me and often get minor flare-ups due to stress, steering clear of chocolate is the worst. A little chocolate should be a bright spot during a tough day. Unfortunately, it’s not when you have acid reflux. Steer clear of chocolate and any other major acid reflux trigger foods until you’re feeling better.

Pay attention to your body

Again, I’ve shared the strategies that have worked best for me for eating chocolate with acid reflux. It’s taken me years to figure out these strategies and to develop new habits for eating chocolate without feeling lousy. I’ve had to pay close attention to what does and doesn’t make me feel good and to steer clear of certain foods or avoid chocolate altogether when I’m stressed or something else is triggering my reflux. You need to do the same thing. No one else has your exact same body and will be able to tell you exactly what will or won’t work for you.

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Do you have any tips for how to eat chocolate with acid reflux?
If you have acid reflux, I’d love to hear your insight on this topic!

 

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{ 10 comments… add one }
  • candy February 13, 2017, 11:07 am

    I will have to pay attention to chocolate when I eat some to see if it triggers this. I know cinnamon will in myself.

  • Natasha February 13, 2017, 11:28 am

    I do not have acid reflux, but I do have a very sensitive stomach and I’ve had to learn what things do and do not agree with me. For example, every non-nutritive sweetener I’ve tried wrecks my stomach, so I really like your final suggestion of “pay attention to your body.” It’s so applicable to everyone with any type of sensitivity!

  • Robin February 13, 2017, 6:14 pm

    I feel your pain! When I was a freshman in college, I went through a very stressful time and also made a lot of lifestyle changes – eating different foods at different times, sleeping different hours, and not having my parents there to keep me in line! I got absolutely horrible acid reflux that on top of being uncomfortable, took away my singing voice – and I was a voice major at a conservatory! I had to go to a voice therapist, go on medication, and make a ton of changes to my lifestyle, including giving up almost every food that I loved – lemon, chocolate, wine, tomatoes… I was miserable. But after going on a strict diet, sleeping on an incline, and being on medication for a few years, it subsided and I don’t even think about it anymore! Hope it’s the same way for you someday!!

    • Ashley August 11, 2018, 3:20 pm

      I’m also a singer… can you tell me your routine ?

      • Rose August 11, 2018, 4:29 pm

        I’m not a singer. Was there specific advice you were looking for regarding eating chocolate with acid reflux in relation to singing?

  • Duni February 14, 2017, 2:36 am

    I’m sorry to hear that, Rose, but glad you found out what triggers your flare-ups and you have found suitable alternatives. Like Natasha, I have a sensitive stomach and over the years I have learned to avoid certain food combinations. Plus I do listen to my body!

  • David Peacock September 7, 2018, 12:50 am

    Wise advice. Hard to keep because im soo addicted to chocolate and caffeine and sugar.
    But recently “like a light switch” i was struck with debilitating pain and could not even talk and at one time though i was having a heart attack. So i do have to change. Its so hard to give up. but the above combination is probably why i have GERD or GORD in the first place.

    • Rose September 9, 2018, 6:25 pm

      I’m so sorry you’ve been struggling with GERD. Cutting down significantly on chocolate, caffeine, and sugar is so hard. It took me a few years to make a full lifestyle change with chocolate and really feel good about it without missing it like crazy.

  • Kathryn March 19, 2019, 1:07 pm

    I have had acid reflux for few years not quite know what it was. I love chocolate the sweet and sout chinese take away as a treat and coke. These cause stomach pains then comes the annoying liquid of acid drives me nuts. I have IBS so that cobfuses the two. I have tried medication lately gone back to esomeprazole but that seems to ease acid but gives bad headache. I do eat yoghurts, fruit and scrambled eggs on toast and other nice meals but I like the bad foods too. Im frustrated I cant eat like i used too and have lost a stone, apparently loosing weight makes acid reflux better but not convinced. Its just not fair. Theres back pains I get too. I like tomatoes but they can cause acid. I dont know how I got it and have had endoscope didnt find much.my doctor is referring me for help as Im fed up. Sorry for the rant.

  • Hans May 11, 2019, 1:56 am

    Chocolate mmmm, I have a shelf full of chocolates purchased from the Lindt factory outlet that I see everyday when I open the cupboard but simply not gamed to consume. I’ve had severe burping problems for 7 years, been check from head to toe, Gastroscopy, Endoscopy, Barium swallow test, MRI, CT scans, Chiropractor, medications etc. and my doctor say’s there’s nothing more he could do and put it down to anxiety. He prescribed anti depressants which I did purchase but after having read about the side effects I ended taking only 1 pill. The strange thing about the burping was that every time I had a burping attack and took a couple of anti acids like Tums it would calm me down. Build up of gases inside me put so much pressure that it made me almost pass out many times while driving. Felt light headed, tightening of the jaw, back pain, had my heart checked and all clear. I have also lost weight even though my appetite is still good.

    Getting back to chocolates, yes I’ve been eating one full strip(4 pieces) of dark chocolate after dinner about 2 hours before going to bed for many years not realizing the damage it was doing to me esophagus. I had an inflamed esophagus from this and how I found out was when food got stuck in my esophagus while having lunch at work.
    I thought I was going to die and had to call the ambulance. When the paramedics
    arrived they grabbed a can of coke from the drinks machine and after just 2 sips the food went down. It is a simple fix and the doctors still aren’t sure how it really works.
    I stopped eating chocolates and it made swallowing food much easier but I still had my burping attacks but not as many. My job is quite stressful and anxiety could also be contributing to my condition.
    I started taking over the counter stress medication and slippery elm powder in chamomile tea twice a day and my chronic burping is almost gone. From what I have read the slippery elm puts a coating in the esophagus and prevents the acids from causing the inflammation. It also helps the lower esophageal sphincter function properly.
    I’ve been doing this for about a month and so far so good. Hopefully the slippery elm will help heal my esophagus. I cannot tell which of the above treatments is responsible for the improvement, maybe just the combination.
    I’m still very tempted to reach for those chocolates but have to control the urge.
    Sorry for the long story but I hope it helps someone with similar symptoms.

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