By Patricia Raymond, Michelle Beaver

A bland meal, blah. One of the main reasons people stray from their diets is due to a lack of flavor. Eating the same bland meals, day after day, can be almost as bad as having to deal with acid reflux. But be careful because many of the spices used to increase flavor can trigger reflux and heartburn.

There are so many different spices and varieties of seasonings that it can be difficult to figure out which ones are the problem. Because people don’t consume spices by themselves, figuring out just what’s causing reflux is even more challenging. There are however, some general guidelines to follow.

In general, fresh herbs and spices are less likely to trigger reflux than their dried counterparts. This is due to the high levels of preservatives contained in premade spice mixes. Preservatives make the spice and seasoning last longer and also make them harder to digest.

Food doesn’t have to be bland, but you should still avoid a heavy hand with the seasoning. Often the stronger the spice, the more likely it is to impact reflux. The spices and seasonings most associated with acid reflux are

  • Cayenne pepper

  • Cloves

  • Chili powder

  • Curry

  • Mustard

  • Nutmeg

  • Pepper (black, cayenne, red, and white)

Herbs such as basil, cilantro, dill, oregano, rosemary, thyme, and even ginger can all add a host of flavor to your food without causing reflux.

Just like many of the other problem foods, the impact that one particular spice or seasoning has on you may not be the same for someone else. That’s why it’s crucial to pay attention to what kind of spices and seasonings are in your meals.

This is fairly easy when you’re preparing meals at home, but it can be a challenge when dining out. Don’t be afraid to ask your server what spices and seasonings are used to prepare your meal. It’s better to feel like a slight nuisance than to go home and lose a good night’s sleep to pain because you didn’t want to be a pain.

Despite all the anecdotal evidence that spicy food triggers reflux, the science isn’t certain. Many studies have concluded that spicy food in itself doesn’t make you any more likely to suffer from acid reflux or heartburn. It does, however, make you more likely to feel reflux’s effects.