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. Due to the buffering properties of milk, it can absorb the excessive acid produced in the stomach, reducing the pH and relieving the negative symptoms related to the high acidity.
However, the relationship between consumption of milk and the symptoms of gastrointestinal reflux diseases is not exactly understood. Some studies report that some dietary habits such as the consumption of milk is negatively correlated with GERD (7).
How Does Milk Neutralize Acid?
Milk neutralize acids in which milk and different dairy products exhibit buffering activity, which is related to the sum of the individual activities of different acid-base groups in substances such as phosphate, citrate, lactate, carbonate, propionate, acetate, amino acids and proteins. When acid ions encounter the amino groups in the side chains of the milk amino acids, it is bound in the molecule, forming NH3+ ions (8).
Evidence suggests that the consumption of milk helps relieve acidity and heartburn (6). 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.
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). 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.
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?
Acid food, such as citric fruits, spices, coffee and food containing high amounts of fat are reported to cause an aggravation of the stomach 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).
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)
- Tomato-based sauces
- Citrus fruits
- 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. However, studies reported that the consumption of milk is related to a decreased rate of gastrointestinal reflux disease in Korean subjects (7).
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?
It is unknown if milk substitutes help neutralize acid. Even though some foods may induce reflux symptoms, there are conflicting results for reflux-inducing foods. Milk substitutes have different compositions. It is known that high fiber intake is correlated with a reduced risk of GERD symptoms. Milk substitutes, such as soy milk and oat milk contain fibers, while rice milk does not. Fat may aggravate GERD and coconut milk contains a high amount of fat in its composition (9).
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.
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.
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- 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.
- Ebrahimi-Mameghani, Mehranghiz, et al. Total diet, individual meals, and their association with gastroesophageal reflux disease. Health prom perspec, 2017, 7, 155.
- Rodriguez-Stanley, Sheila, et al. Calcium carbonate antacids alter esophageal motility in heartburn sufferers. Digestive dis sci, 2004, 49, 1862-1867.
- Cheng, Jing, and Arthur C. Ouwehand. Gastroesophageal reflux disease and probiotics: a systematic review. Nutrients, 2020, 12, 132.
- Gupta, E. GERD Diet: Foods That Help with Acid Reflux (Heartburn). Johns Hopkins Medicine.
- Nam, Su Youn, et al. Different effects of dietary factors on reflux esophagitis and non-erosive reflux disease in 11,690 Korean subjects. J gastroenterol, 2017, 52, 818-829.
- Al-Dabbas, Maher M., Khalid Al-Ismail, and Basem M. Al-Abdullah. Effect of chemical composition on the buffering capacity of selected dairy products. Jordan. J. Agric. Sci, 2011, 7, 690-700.
- Bridges, Meagan. Moo-ove over, cow’s milk: The rise of plant-based dairy alternatives. Prac Gastroenterol, 2018, 21, 20-27.