Garlic and heartburn

Tags , , , ,

Despite its many health benefits, garlic can trigger heartburn in many people.

Health benefits of garlic

Garlic (Allium sativum) is a vegetable of the Allium genus. With Central Asia and northeastern Iran as its origin, garlic has been used as a seasoning in many cuisines all over the world for thousands of years.

Also, it has been used as preventive and curative medicine since ancient Egyptian times.

Garlic has many health benefits:

Despite these health benefits, garlic may still be a no-no for people prone to heartburn.

Is garlic acidic or alkaline?


Garlic has a pH of 5.80, and like onion, it is graded as slightly acidic food.

This slight acidity of garlic should not cause any symptoms. Furthermore, garlic is considered to be an alkaline-forming food, which means it should not induce the overproduction of stomach acids.

However, a low acidity or being an alkaline-forming food doesn’t necessarily mean that a food is safe for acid reflux sufferers:

Does garlic cause acid reflux?

Garlic and acid reflux | Can You Eat Garlic If You Have Acid Reflux?
A short video about the health benefits of garlic and its connection to acid reflux. Duration: 3:57.

Like onion, garlic is also on the blacklist of foods to avoid for people suffering from acid reflux.

Garlic also contains high levels of the FODMAP fructans, which cause bloating and stomach distention, aggravating heartburn symptoms in sensitive people.

Some research studies reported several cases of eosinophilic esophagitis with the consumption of garlic. Although, in some cases, symptoms were caused by small pieces of garlic stuck in the esophagus and not acid reflux.

Cutting out the garlic from the diets of some people was a successful strategy in the management of the symptoms.

These studies and many more agree that the elimination of garlic in the diets of sensitive people is one great strategy to curb heartburn symptoms.

Does cooked garlic cause acid reflux?

Even though we found no research data on cooked garlic and GERD, many people find that cooking makes several types of food less likely to trigger heartburn.

Be it onion, potato, garlic, or any other vegetable, cooking might decrease the chance of having heartburn since cooked vegetables are usually more easily digested than raw ones.

However, the individual responses of acid reflux sufferers to both raw and cooked garlic will be very different.

Finding out whether cooked garlic is better tolerated by your body is going to be a trial and error.

Can garlic relieve heartburn?

There is anecdotal evidence of garlic relieving acid reflux symptoms. Those heartburn sufferers, who can digest garlic without bloating might benefit from it:

  • Even though garlic is slightly acidic, it has an alkalizing effect on the stomach. This might reduce the amount of gastric acid and eliminate or at least relieve symptoms.
  • The anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties of garlic might help if an infection is contributing to heartburn or other digestive problems.

Looks like garlic can be both an acid reflux trigger and a remedy, depending on individual reactions.

Can garlic trigger chest pain?

As mentioned above, garlic boosts your immune system and therefore might help chest discomfort caused by an infection. However, in some cases garlic might actually be the trigger of chest pain:

  • Heartburn: Those who are prone to acid reflux might experience heartburn, a burning sensation around the center of the chest after garlic intake.
  • Esophagitis: Eating raw garlic might cause inflammation of the esophagus. This happens when small parts of garlic get stuck in the food pipe. There are some studies describing such cases, but it is not common.

Both heartburn and esophagitis cause chest pain. While garlic is unlikely to cause esophagitis, it does trigger heartburn for many people.

GERD-friendly alternatives to garlic

As far as garlic is concerned, finding a good heartburn-friendly alternative is difficult.

Some people propose dehydrated and dried garlic options are more GERD-friendly as their impact on acid reflux may be mild, but again symptoms can still show up in very sensitive people.

Also, ginger can be used to replace garlic in foods, as ginger is a very reputable GERD-friendly vegetable due to its numerous soothing effects.

Side effects of too much garlic

Too much of anything might have its negative effects. This is true for garlic as well.

  • Might damage the liver, heart, or kidney.
  • Might interact with certain drugs. Those who take blood thinners or medication for high blood pressure should consult with their doctors before eating too much garlic.
  • Might cause headaches and dizziness.
  • Might cause nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.

Final thoughts

Garlic has many health benefits, but might be a trigger food for people prone to heartburn.

Those who are sensitive to garlic might try dried garlic, garlic oil, or cooking the garlic before eating. Unfortunately, none of these methods guarantee that symptoms will go away.

If all else fails, you might need to eliminate garlic from your diet.

Overconsumption of garlic is more likely to cause health issues. People taking blood thinners and drugs for their blood pressure should especially be careful.

This article has been written by:

Meggy Jones

Expert Nutritionist and Food Scientist,
M.Sc. – Nutrition, ugent, Belgium