Does Milk Neutralize Acid

In this brief article, we will answer the question “does milk neutralize acid?”, and will talk about the components in milk that affect acidity, as well as the overall role of milk and its substitutes in controlling acidity and heartburn. 

Does Milk Neutralize Acid?

Yes, milk is an effective remedy to combat acidity. Milk absorbs excess acid produced in the stomach, which stops reflux and burning sensations within the gastric system. 

If you feel acid reflux coming along or experience heartburn after a meal, a glass of cold milk without any sugar or additives will help soothe the symptoms. 

How Does Milk Neutralize Acid?

Evidence suggests that the calcium and proteins present in milk help relieve acidity and heartburn, according to Dr. Gupta, assistant professor of Medicine from the John Hopkins Hospital, Maryland, USA . Fat can aggravate heartburn, but nonfat milk can act as a temporary buffer between the stomach lining and acidic stomach contents and provide immediate relief of heartburn symptoms.

Depending on whether it’s whole or low-fat, a single cup of cow’s milk (245 ml) provides 21 to 23 percent of the Daily Value (DV) for calcium, according to the Food Data from the US Department of Agriculture. 

Studies have shown that increased amounts of dietary calcium naturally reduce heartburn. Moreover, antacids generally contain calcium carbonate because of their acid-neutralizing effects. Antacids such as calcium carbonate increase contractile amplitude in the proximal esophagus, improving initiation of the peristaltic wave and propulsion of the bolus, resulting in more efficient bolus clearance (4). 

Calcium is also necessary for maintaining muscle tone. Individuals suffering from acid reflux disease have a weak lower esophageal sphincter (a muscle that prevents the stomach’s contents from coming back into the food pipe). 

Studies show that calcium carbonate increases the muscle tone of lower esophageal sphincter, LES, by 50 percent. 

A single cup of milk also provides about 8 grams of protein, and studies have shown that increased protein consumption was associated with reduced symptoms of acidity and heartburn. It could be in part explained by the fact that protein increases the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) pressure and stimulates gastrin secretion which promotes stomach emptying (3).

Hence, less food is available to climb back up into the food pipe.

What Foods Aggravate Acidity?

It is well known that the diet influences the incidence of heartburn. In a study, performed with patients with reflux, perceived reflux event was significantly associated with higher intakes of cholesterol, saturated fatty acids, and calories from fat (3).

According to Dr. Gupta from the John Hopkins Hospital in Maryland, USA, the following foods can trigger heartburn and acid reflux:

  • Fried food
  • Fast food (pizza, french fries, processed foods/snacks)
  • Chili powder and all kinds of pepper
  • Fatty meats (bacon, sausage)
  • Cheese
  • Tomato-based sauces
  • Citrus fruits
  • Chocolate
  • Peppermint
  • Carbonated beverages

These foods cause the lower esophageal sphincter to relax, hence delaying the digestive process and gastric emptying. 

Avoid eating these foods late in the evening and especially just before bedtime, so that the contents don’t come up into your esophagus when you lay down to rest. 

Also, eat such foods in moderation and as small frequent meals rather than big, heavy meals. 

Could Milk Aggravate Acidity?

Yes, milk could also aggravate acidity because of its fat content.

A single cup (245 ml) of whole milk contains 8 grams of fat, and fatty foods are common triggers for heartburn. This is because they relax the LES and increase the chances of acid reflux.

Also, fats take longer to digest as compared to carbohydrates and proteins, hence delaying gastric emptying and worsening reflux and heartburn. A low-fat diet is indicated to gastroesophageal reflux disease (3). 

However, if you don’t want to quit drinking milk, a reduced-fat option would be better. These contain anywhere between zero to 2.5 grams of fat, depending on whether the milk is skimmed or low-fat.

Could Milk Substitutes Help Neutralize Acid?

Certain people recommend switching to almond milk or goat’s milk for heartburn and acidity relief. However, these substitutes have both positives and negatives.

For instance, goat’s milk is well-known for its better digestibility as compared to cow’s milk, in virtue of its higher content in short chain, medium chain, mono and polyunsaturated fatty acids than that of cow’s milk and studies also demonstrate its anti-inflammatory and anti-allergic attributes. However, it is slightly higher in fat content (one cup contains 11 grams of fat) which might aggravate acidity and heartburn (1).

Similarly, almond milk is claimed to alleviate the symptoms of heartburn because of its alkaline nature. Cow’s milk has a pH of 6.8, whereas the pH of almond milk is 8.4. Hence, some people believe that it might help neutralize stomach acids; however, only further research can confirm this (2).

Remember: not everything works for everyone, so you should stick with what provides you relief from your symptoms. 

What Other Dairy Products Can Neutralize Acid?

Other than milk, milk products such as buttermilk and yogurt can also grant relief from acidity. There are many studies reporting the positive effects of milk probiotic products in the relief of symptoms related to heartburn and reflux. The benefits of reflux symptoms include: reduced regurgitation, improvements in reflux or heartburn, improvements in dyspepsia and other symptoms, such as nausea, abdominal pain and gas-related symptoms, such as belching, gurgling, and burping (5).

These milk-based products help cool the stomach and their natural bacterial content inhibits excessive acid formation, keeping the digestive system holistically healthy. 

Moreover, including buttermilk and yogurt daily in your meals can significantly reduce the chances of developing long-term acidity.

Conclusion

In this brief article, we answered the question “does milk neutralize acid?” and talked about the components in milk that affect acidity, as well as the overall role of milk and its substitutes in controlling acidity and heartburn. 

If you have any more questions or comments please let us know.

References

  1. Jirillo, Felicita, and Thea Magrone. Anti-inflammatory and anti-allergic properties of donkey’s and goat’s milk. Endocr, Metab Immune DisDrug Targets , 2014, 14, 27-37.
  2. Lee, Janelle, et al. Analysis of the cariogenic potential of various almond milk beverages using a Streptococcus mutans biofilm model in vitro. Caries res, 2018, 52, 51-57.
  3. Ebrahimi-Mameghani, Mehranghiz, et al. “Total diet, individual meals, and their association with gastroesophageal reflux disease.Health promotion perspectives 7.3 (2017): 155.
  4. Rodriguez-Stanley, Sheila, et al. Calcium carbonate antacids alter esophageal motility in heartburn sufferers. Digestive dis sci, 2004, 49, 1862-1867.
  5. Cheng, Jing, and Arthur C. Ouwehand. Gastroesophageal reflux disease and probiotics: a systematic review. Nutrients, 2020, 12, 132.