Is Eating Ice Cream Making Your GERD Symptoms Worse?

You might have noticed that sometimes after you eat ice cream, you have symptoms like heartburn, chest pain, regurgitation of sour liquid, problems with swallowing, coughing, sore throat, hoarseness, vomiting, or a feeling like you have food stuck in your throat. According to the Cleveland Clinic, these symptoms are associated with acid reflux

The Mayo Clinic says it is normal to have acid reflux on occasion. However, if you have mild reflux at least twice a week or moderate to severe reflux at least once a week, this may be indicative of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

According to WebMD, acid reflux can be treated with medications that either coat your stomach, reduce acid production, or help food move through your digestive tract faster. Certain lifestyle changes, like eating smaller meals, elevating your head when you sleep, losing weight, avoiding tight clothing, and quitting smoking, are also recommended. 

It may be helpful to avoid foods that aggravate acid reflux as well, but does ice cream make GERD symptoms worse?

Why ice cream can aggravate GERD symptoms

The Surgical Clinic says that any sort of high-fat dairy product — including milk, cheese, and ice cream — can make GERD symptoms worse. 

Gastroenterology Consultants of San Antonio explains that this occurs because fatty foods take longer to digest, meaning they spend more time in your stomach. As a result, your stomach makes more acid in response. Fatty foods can also relax the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), the ring of muscle of that closes off the esophagus from the stomach. This allows the excess acid to move upward out of the stomach, where it can burn and irritate the unprotected tissues of the esophagus.

The Surgical Clinic additionally notes that cold dairy products, like ice cream, can have a numbing effect on the LES. This allows it to relax, and as a result, heartburn symptoms may occur. If your ice cream is flavored with chocolate, mint, or coffee, this might further complicate matters, as these foods are also capable of relaxing the LES.