If you are a long-term acid reflux sufferer, you probably know that certain foods trigger heartburn. These foods may even include healthy fruits and vegetables; such as garlic, onions, tomatoes, pineapples or oranges.
If you haven’t tried dragon fruit before, you may have no idea how this tropical fruit could affect your acid reflux symptoms.
Is dragon fruit a friend or foe when it comes to acid reflux disease?
The answer is just below…
The Immediate Answer
To date, no scientific study has looked at the effects of dragon fruit on acid reflux.
However, the nutrient profile of dragon fruit suggests that the fruit should be safe for acid reflux patients and may even help to manage acid reflux symptoms by providing certain nutrients to the body, such as dietary fibre.
In the rest of the article, we’ll take a closer look at the potential effects of eating dragon fruit on acid reflux.
But first, let’s briefly talk about acid reflux disease and explain specific terms such as LES, GERD and heartburn, as we’ll use them many times in the rest of the article.
*Note that dragon fruit is also known as pitaya, pitahaya or strawberry pear.
What is Acid Reflux?
Acid reflux occurs when stomach acid flows back into the food pipe (the esophagus).
Normally the lower esophagal sphincter muscle (called LES) prevents stomach acid from moving upward. However, sometimes LES opens when it shouldn’t or doesn’t fully close after letting foods enter the stomach. This allows stomach acid to flow back into the esophagus, causing specific symptoms.
The image below illustrates the function of the lower oesophagal sphincter (LES) muscle, which is located at the lower end of the esophagus.
The most common symptom of acid reflux is heartburn, which refers to the burning sensation in the chest or throat.
It is normal to get heartburn from time to time. However, some people get heartburn or acid reflux frequently.
According to the Mayo Clinic; when acid reflux repeatedly happens over time, it is called gastroesophagal reflux disease (GERD), or chronic acid reflux.
Why is Dragon Fruit Considered Safe For GERD Patients?
The reason tomatoes, lemons, oranges and many other citrus fruits often trigger heartburn in many GERD patients is that they are high in acid.
Consuming highly acidic foods contributes to the acidic environment of the stomach, increasing the risk of heartburn. Besides, according to the American College of Gastroenterology, the consumption of acidic foods can irritate the already damaged lining of the esophagus (the food pipe) in people with GERD.
To prevent further damage to the esophagus and lower the number of reflux episodes, GERD patients are usually advised to consume non-acidic (alkaline) and low-acid foods.
Dragon fruit has a pH value between 6 to 7, which makes the fruit mildly acidic to neutral. It bears repeating that low-acid fruits and vegetables are regarded as OK for people with chronic heartburn.
Moreover, dragon fruit contains alkaline-forming minerals such as calcium, magnesium and potassium, hinting that the fruit is safe for GERD patients.
Another reason dragon fruits are unlikely to trigger heartburn is that they contain no fat.
Fat takes more time to digest, causing the stomach to produce more acid, which raises the risk of having heartburn in susceptible individuals.
Research shows that eating fatty foods (especially foods with unhealthy fats) may trigger a response in the body that relaxes the LES muscle.
Considering these factors, dragon fruit is very unlikely to cause heartburn. This is especially true when it is consumed as a part of a GERD-friendly diet.
Does Eating Dragon Fruit Help Improve GERD Symptoms?
As mentioned above, no study has tested the effects of dragon fruit on acid reflux. So, no direct evidence says eating dragon fruit can improve acid reflux symptoms.
However, we shouldn’t forget that dragon fruit contains a decent amount of dietary fibre. According to the U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA); a 100-gram serving of dragon fruit provides around 3 grams of fibre.
Fibre can help reduce the frequency and severity of acid reflux symptoms, both directly and indirectly.
Firstly, fibre can provide the feeling of fullness. This can prevent individuals from overeating, which is strongly correlated with heartburn.
Fibre may also improve acid reflux symptoms directly by:
- neutralising excess stomach acid
- improving esophageal function
There are even studies, demonstrating the efficacy of eating a fibre-rich diet in managing acid reflux symptoms.
For instance, a recent study published in the World Journal of Gastroenterology found that a fibre-enriched diet may lower the number of acid reflux episodes and decrease heartburn frequency.
Can Dragon Fruit Cure Acid Reflux?
According to Dr Ekta Gupta — a gastroenterologist at Johns Hopkins Medicine —; diet plays a vital role in controlling acid reflux symptoms. And, she advises acid reflux patients to consume foods from 3 categories;
- High-fibre foods
- Watery Foods
Dragon fruit contains a substantial amount of fibre and has alkaline-forming minerals. Plus, the fruit contains a high amount of moisture. All these properties of dragon fruit suggest that it is an ideal food for GERD patients.
However, neither dragon fruit nor any other fruits or vegetables — however healthy — can cure gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases; GERD can be controlled with lifestyle modifications (including diet modifications) and with medicine, or a combination of both. And, in some cases, doctors may recommend surgery.
Foods to Include in Your Acid Reflux Diet
You might wonder what other foods you can include in your diet to reduce the frequency and severity of acid reflux symptoms.
In general, high-fibre, low-fat and alkaline foods are recommended to control acid reflux symptoms.
In addition to dragon fruit, we also wrote separate articles about the potential effects of ginger, almonds, and carrot juice on acid reflux symptoms. If you are interested in learning how these foods may help with heartburn, you can click the links below and read the articles.
- Almonds and acid reflux
- Is Ginger good for acid reflux?
- Carrot Juice and Heartburn
- Are Dates Good For Acid Reflux?
- Low-acid and fat-free dragon fruit should be safe for people who suffer from chronic acid reflux.
- The high fibre content of dragon fruit may help reduce the frequency and severity of acid reflux symptoms.
- However, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all diet when it comes to acid reflux because everyone reacts differently to the same food. For this reason, people with GERD can try adding moderate amounts of dragon fruit to their diet and monitor how it impacts their symptoms.
- Losing weight (if you are obese or overweight) can positively impact your symptoms.
- Doing exercise is an effective way to lose weight. However, if you have GERD, strenuous exercises can trigger the symptoms. So, try to stick to low-impact exercises, such as walking, to deal with GERD.