You may have heard of acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Millions of people have this condition, and it causes stomach acid to back up into your esophagus. In turn, this can irritate the lining and make you uncomfortable.
However, in spite of experiencing discomfort, a lot of people look forward to eating pizza. If you’re not careful, the acidity in the sauce and toppings can cause your stomach to create more acid, and this triggers your acid reflux. Luckily for you, modifying your pizza will allow you to enjoy it without suffering later.
Below, we’ll give you several tips and techniques on how to eat pizza with acid reflux to ensure you can enjoy it whenever you want.
Understanding Acid Reflux
Acid reflux can be a chronic condition that varies in severity. At your stomach’s entrance, you have a valve. This is a ring of muscle called the LES or lower esophageal sphincter. Usually, this valve closes as soon as any food you eat passes through.
If this ring of muscle doesn’t close all of the way, your stomach acid can end up back in your esophagus. Your doctor may diagnose you with GERD if this happens two or more times a week. You could experience different symptoms with this condition, including:
- Black or bloody stools
- Chronic sore throat
- Dry cough
- Feeling like you have food stuck in your throat
- Throwing up blood
- Weight loss with no known cause
Choose the Right Pizza Ingredients
Do you have any favorite pizza ingredients? Just because you have acid reflux doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy them. Picking a thin crust, switching up your flour, and more can all help. You can also:
Opt for Thin Crust
Thick crust is very hard for your body to digest, and your stomach will make more acid to try and break it down. So, swapping out your normal thick crust pizza with something thinner can keep your stomach acid levels lower because there are fewer carbs to break down. As a bonus, it’ll be crispier!
Use Whole Wheat or Gluten-Free Flour
All-purpose flour is very dense and it comes loaded with gluten. If you have trouble digesting gluten, it can spend more time sitting in your digestive tract. To stop this, consider using or getting a pizza with whole wheat flour or one that is gluten-free.
Consider a White Sauce or Pesto Base Over Acidic Tomato Sauce
Red sauces have a tomato base, and tomatoes have a high acidity content. So when you layer this on pizza with your toppings and eat it, you’re introducing a lot of acid to your stomach at once. This encourages your stomach to produce more acid.
A white sauce is a great alternative, usually a cream-based sauce that is very mild. Pesto has a basil base, and this is a very neutral sauce. Swapping your tomato sauce for one of these options is easier on your stomach because they have lower acid content.
Select Low-Fat Cheese Options
Getting full-fat cheese on your pizza may add flavor, but it also encourages your body to release substances that can irritate the lining of your esophagus. Pick low-fat cheeses like part-skim mozzarella or three cheese blends to combat this.
Limit Fatty and Spicy Toppings
Traditional pizza comes loaded with fatty meats and acidic vegetables. All of these can be triggers for your acid reflux. So, with a few simple changes, you can get a pizza less prone to cause issues. For example, you can swap out your sauce and go with lean meats like chicken or turkey instead of pepperoni or sausage. Use fresh ingredients, and go for vegetables with lower acidity, like green peppers, carrots, broccoli, mushrooms, and spinach.
Incorporate Vegetables Instead of Meat
Veggie pizza is usually a much safer alternative than meat-heavy, but you must pick the right vegetables. Avoid spicy or acidic vegetables and go for mild ones. Also, instead of putting bacon, pepperoni, or sausage, if you have to have meat, pick learner cuts like chicken or turkey. You’ll get lower fat content, and your stomach won’t create as much acid.
|pH Level||Pizza Topping|
|4 (Acidic)||Pickles, balsamic vinegar, full-fat cheese, sausage, pepperoni|
|5||Beef, white flour, nuts, pineapple|
|6||Eggs, fish, cooked beans, cooked spinach, oysters|
|8||Tomatoes, mushrooms, olives, bell peppers, basil|
|9||Avocado, fruit, lettuce, eggplant|
|10 (Alkaline)||Spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, onions|
Timing and Portion Control
Slowing down when you eat and watching your portions can help reduce the acid in your stomach and stop your body from producing too much.
Eat Smaller Portions and Chew
Many people eat very fast and don’t chew their food very well. If you do, you end up swallowing larger pieces that your body has to break down. A good rule of thumb is to chew your food roughly 32 times per bite before swallowing it. Doing so will give you water-filled and soft food for your stomach to break down, requiring less acid.
If you have a pizza craving, watch your portion sizes and how much you eat. Remember, stuffing yourself makes your stomach produce more acid and work harder to digest it. Ideally, you’ll try to stick to eating one slice of pizza with the ingredients we suggested.
Avoid Eating Pizza Close to Bedtime
When you have food like pizza, it’s common to eat later in the day or evening. However, when you combine the acid and grease in the pizza with relaxing and lying down, this causes your stomach valve to relax. When it does, acid starts to flow back up your esophagus.
Generally, it’s good to get in the habit of stopping eating roughly three hours before you want to go to bed. This gives your body a chance to break down everything you eat and helps ensure your stomach valve doesn’t relax.
Eat in Moderation and Stay Hydrated
There are simple things you can do every day to help reduce stomach acid levels and stop acid reflux from happening. One of the biggest includes:
Drink Plenty of Water During and After the Meal
Water has a neutral pH of 7, so drinking more can help neutralize any acid lingering in your throat and relieve your acid reflux symptoms. Consider drinking plenty of water during the day, especially before and during an acidic meal. Sip slowly so you don’t overextend your stomach and put pressure on your lower esophageal sphincter.
Alternative Pizza Styles
Outside of traditional pizza, there are alternative pizza styles you can try if all of our tips aren’t cutting through your acid reflux. They include:
- Explore Flatbread or Pita Pizzas– Pita and flatbread pizzas tend to be thin and have fewer carbs. This reduces the acid needed to digest them.
- Try Cauliflower Crust Pizza– Cauliflower crust can neutralize the acid in your stomach and is very easy to digest.
- Experiment with Homemade, Acid Reflux-Friendly Recipes– If you make homemade pizza, consider making pizza with lean meats, non-acidic vegetables, and pesto or white sauce.
Consider Taking Antacids
An antacid is a medicine that neutralizes or counteracts the acid your stomach produces. Be aware that these usually aren’t the best-tasting things in the world and may have a chalky aftertaste. However, you can get them in liquid and chewable form, and you should take them roughly an hour before you sit down to eat.
The amount you take will depend on the brand. However, most brands encourage you to take two to four tablets an hour before you eat or when your symptoms start.
Lifestyle Modifications for Acid Reflux
Along with changing up your pizza toppings, many lifestyle modifications are great for helping alleviate your acid reflux symptoms and making you more comfortable. These include but are not limited to:
- Maintain a Healthy Weight– Being overweight increases pressure on your abdomen, making it easier for stomach acid to return to your esophagus.
- Stay Upright After Meals – You’ll reduce pressure on your LES by staying upright after you eat, keeping acid trapping in your stomach.
- Practice Stress Management Techniques– Stress can impact contractions in your esophagus, encouraging food and acid to come back up. Meditation, talking it out, and taking care of yourself reduces stress.
- Limit Alcohol and Caffeine Intake– Alcohol and caffeine are acidic, so you want to cut them out on the day you plan to eat pizza so you don’t overload your system.
Consult with Your Doctor
If you have recurring acid reflux and discomfort, we recommend scheduling a visit with your doctor to discuss your concerns and symptoms. They can prescribe medications and offer methods to help manage your acid reflux and make you more comfortable.
Enjoy Your Pizza Without the Burn
In a perfect world, you can eat whatever you want without worrying about acid reflux, persistent heartburn, and stomach irritation. However, for many people, this isn’t possible. So, now you know how to eat pizza with acid reflux while reducing your chances of having a painful flare-up.
Barbara is an enthusiastic food-exploring person that goes through different culinary experiences. She got inspired by creating a pizza blog post after she tasted one of the best-selling pizzas in Toledo.