Can Gluten Give You Acid Reflux? (Yes!) And 3 Signs to Watch For to Beat the Bloat and Feel Better Fast. No more burping and bloating!
Once I finally figured out it was the gluten I was eating that was causing my reflux, I was finally, finally free from the bloating, burping and nausea.
As I said buh-bye to the pills that I was taking to (apparently) control my GERD, I wanted to learn more about how gluten can cause reflux.
If you wanna know why gluten might be causing your reflux and more importantly, want a solution to stop painful reflux after eating gluten, you're in the right place????♀️
In this blog, I'll cover:
- What is gluten?
- Acid Reflux: What is it?
- Can gluten give you acid reflux?
- Can acid reflux be a symptom of gluten intolerance?
Let's get started!
What is Gluten?
Gluten is the protein found in grains like wheat, barley, rye and other grains.
Specifically in wheat, gluten makes up ~80% of the total proteins.
Wheat flour itself is such an important food and food ingredient used in sooooo many different products. Things that we eat (like bread, baked goods, pasta, etc.) and things that we use - like even some make-up.
Wheat flour does have a ton of beneficial nutritional properties, like protein (the gluten), fibre and trace vitamins and minerals.
So wheat flour isn't "bad" necessarily but the it's the gluten protein in the wheat that causes immune responses and hypersensitivity reactions in susceptible people (like me and you.)
What is Acid Reflux?
Acid reflux or "GERD" - gastroesophageal reflux disease - is when acid from the stomach leaks into your esophagus. There's a sphincter around the lower esophagus (think kinda like a rubber band) and this keeps the stomach acid where it needs to be: in your stomach.
But for many different reasons, conditions in your gut can change, causing this rubber band to loosen, letting stomach acid seep into your esophagus.
This can cause bloating, burping, nausea and a burning in your throat. Not a whole lotta fun!
Can Gluten Give You Acid Reflux? Here are 3 Signs to Watch For:
1. Big, Bad Bloating - have you ever ate a meal and then a few hours later, you're making comments to your spouse about your "pregnant belly", patting it lovingly? In my own experience and talking to many others about this, stomach bloating often happens after eating gluten. This may be related to the type of carbohydrates eaten, causing more fermentation which in turn, causing bloating (more on this later.)
2. Bad Breath - spouse buying you TicTacs on the regular for your Dragon Breath? Acid reflux after eating gluten can cause some really narly smells to waft up through your food pipe and out into the world. Often my husband would tell me I had "stress breath". I brushed more often; I flossed; I breathed into my hand and tried to smell it (does that even work?) but nothing helped. Until, that is, I cut out gluten for good. No more reflux from gluten=no more bad breath.
3. Belching & Burping - find yourself rocked by burps that happen even when your stomach is empty? I remember hours after eating, I would burp like I just drank a whole bunch of Bubbly. I got used to it after a few years but really, I shouldn't have. Why the heck would I be BURPING if I didn't eat anything for hours? Try and see if you notice your burps are expected (after some carbonated water, say for example) or are you generally in a state of a near-constant-blelch-fest? If it's the latter, try cutting out gluten and see if it gets any better.
Can Acid Reflux Be a Symptom of Gluten Intolerance?
So here's the thing: gluten intolerance can cause a lot of different symptoms.
Here's a list of some of the symptoms that people report:
- Abdominal Pain
- Skin Problems
- Muscle & Joint Pain
- Brain Fog
But, the symptoms of gluten intolerance overlap with celiac disease and other intestinal conditions like irritable bowl syndrome for example.
Plus, the diagnosis for gluten intolerance or non-celiac gluten sensitivity isn't clear - there isn't a biomarker or a reliable way to diagnosis the condition.
Some studies point to changes in the intestines "permeability" or the amount of stuff (<-- science word) that gets through the lining of the intestines and activation of the innate immune system but again, nothing is established in the medical community at this point (1).
For me, because I had such bad acid reflux from gluten, once I finally cut out gluten for good, my symptoms went away and I got to say buh-bye to my prescription medication.
For me, I had:
- Painful bloating
- Non-stop reflux (you know – the burps, the burning in your throat)
- Stomach or abdominal cramping
- Nausea that won’t let up
Although true gluten-related disorders are uncommon (1), it's kind of amazing the number of people I talk to that are bloated and burping, taking medication, cutting out coffee, red wine (?!), carbonated beverages and STILL getting no relief from acid reflux.
In the research, the connection between eating gluten and acid reflux is not well defined but more studies are being done to try and figure it out (2).
Gluten may cause acid reflux by lowering the pressure of the esophageal sphincter because of fermentation of starches
One connection has been found in the type of carbohydrate eaten: starches vs. fibre. Changes in the type of carbs eaten may be linked with increased GERD-symptoms. More starch and less fibre = more acid reflux. Why does this happen? Researchers think it might be linked to the fact that starch seems to lower the esophageal sphincter pressure because of increases colonic fermentation (aka more toots).
In the western diet, we get most of the starches in our diet from refined grains, which are gluten-based and tend to be lower in fibre.
So Can You End Reflux with a Gluten-Free Diet?
The jury is still definitely out when it comes to why or more importantly, how gluten causes acid reflux.
There are small studies showing that gluten-free diets can help with reducing GERD-symptoms and prevention more reflux from happening (3).
But I know one thing for sure: when I went gluten-free (for actual good), I didn't have any bloating, burping or nausea and I said buh-bye to my medications.
For me, that's all the evidence I need????♀️
If you think gluten might be causing your acid reflux, try cutting out gluten (for good) and see what happens. I'd be thrilled to be right there with you on your journey to gluten-free for life too.
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You may also want to check out:
1.Newberry C. The Gluten-Free Diet: Use in Digestive Disease Management. Curr Treat Options Gastroenterol. 2019 Dec;17(4):554-563. doi: 10.1007/s11938-019-00255-0. PMID: 31705373.
2. Barbaro MR, Cremon C, Stanghellini V and Barbara G. Recent advances in understanding non-celiac gluten sensitivity [version 1; referees: 2 approved] F1000Research 2018, 7(F1000 Faculty Rev):1631 (doi: 10.12688/f1000research.15849.1)
3. Usai P, Manca R, Cuomo R, Lai MA, Russo L, Boi MF. Effect of gluten-free diet on preventing recurrence of gastroesophageal reflux disease-related symptoms in adult celiac patients with nonerosive reflux disease. J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2008 Sep;23(9):1368-72. doi: 10.1111/j.1440-1746.2008.05507.x. PMID: 18853995.