Understanding acid reflux
Acid reflux occurs when stomach acid rises and flows back into the oesophagus and mouth.1 It may be caused when the lower oesophageal sphincter (LES), a muscle around the bottom of the oesophagus that separates it from the stomach, doesn’t close properly.3 Factors like being overweight, pregnancy, certain foods, smoking, and specific medical conditions can also contribute to the development of acid reflux.1
Does milk help acid reflux: unpacking the myth
Some people tout milk as a go-to remedy for acid reflux relief while others claim to experience heightened symptoms when they ingest it.4 So is milk good for acid reflux or isn’t it? Milk has a high calcium and protein content which may offer some benefits for acid reflux, but it is also high in fat which may worsen the symptoms.4
Benefits of calcium
Calcium carbonate is used as an antacid due to its acid-neutralising effect,4 and high dietary intake of calcium has been shown to reduce the risk of acid reflux.5 Additionally, calcium is an essential mineral for muscle tone,4 and a small study* indicated taking a calcium carbonate preparation could increase LES muscle tone.6
*18 people with heartburn were included in the study.
Benefits of protein
Research suggests that people who consume more protein are less likely to have acid reflux symptoms.7 Protein also stimulates gastrin secretion, a hormone that increases LES contraction and promotes the emptying of stomach contents.4,8 This reduces the amount of food available to move back up. However, gastrin is also involved in the secretion of stomach acid, which may increase symptoms of acid reflux.4,8
Disadvantages of fats
Milk is relatively high in fat and fatty foods are a common trigger for heartburn.1,4 High-fat meals can potentially relax the LES, exacerbating acid reflux in some individuals.9 Additionally, fats take longer to digest than proteins and carbohydrates, thus delaying the emptying of stomach contents.10 This increases the oesophageal exposure to gastric acid and increases the amount of food available to move back up.4
Milk types and their effects on acid reflux
After reading this far, you may find yourself wondering, ‘what is the best milk for acid reflux?’ As discussed previously, high fat content such as in full-fat cow’s milk can relax the LES and potentially worsen acid reflux symptoms.9 In this regard, low-fat cow's milk may be a better choice for some, as it contains less fat and might have a milder impact on reflux. Goat’s milk has been associated with a better digestibility than cow’s milk, but it has a slightly higher fat content, which may worsen symptoms.4,11
Non-dairy milk alternatives like almond, soy, and coconut milk can be suitable options for those with lactose intolerance, but their effect on acid reflux is largely understudied.4 Almond milk may help to reduce heartburn symptoms due to its alkaline nature (i.e., it has a higher pH than milk and may help to neutralise stomach acids), but further research is needed to confirm this.4 Soy milk is another low-fat alternative to dairy milk; however, some people may be allergic to soy so it’s important to be cautious when trying it for the first time.12 On the other hand, coconut milk is higher in fat than almond and soy milk.12
Milk & acid reflux at night
Some believe that milk's soothing properties can help curb acid reflux symptoms during sleep. However, the reality is more nuanced. Lying down after consuming any type of food or beverage, including milk, can exacerbate acid reflux symptoms due to the relaxation of the LES.1,3 As discussed previously, the effect of milk on acid reflux varies between individuals and is also dependent on the type of milk ingested.4 It is thus essential to consider lifestyle changes and proper eating habits for better night-time acid reflux management.1
Other ways to manage acid reflux
For effective acid reflux management, lifestyle changes play a crucial role.1 Avoiding trigger foods (e.g., spicy, fatty, acidic foods) and drinks (e.g., coffee, alcohol, fizzy drinks), refraining from lying down immediately after eating, avoiding eating before exercising, maintaining a healthy weight, eating smaller meals, and stopping smoking are all recommended.1,13-15 If these measures are insufficient to relieve the symptoms, over-the-counter medications such as antacids like Gaviscon can provide relief for mild reflux (symptoms occurring 1–2 times a week).1 Those suffering from more frequent symptoms should consult a healthcare professional.1
How Gaviscon can help
While milk might provide comfort to some people suffering from acid reflux, it's not a one-size-fits-all solution.4 Understanding one's triggers and making dietary adjustments are essential for effective acid reflux management.1 If you continue to experience acid reflux symptoms, try Gaviscon Dual Action. By neutralising stomach acid and creating a protective layer on top of your stomach contents, it helps to bring soothing relief to your symptoms.
This article is for general information only and not intended as a substitute for medical advice. All information presented on these web pages is not meant to diagnose or prescribe. In all health-related matters, always consult your healthcare professional.
Always read the label and follow the directions for use. RKT-M-33882.
- Gastro-oesophageal reflux in adults [published August 2022]. In: Therapeutic Guidelines. Melbourne: Therapeutic Guidelines Limited; accessed August 2023. https://www.tg.org.au.
- Nolden AA et al. Physiol Behav 2019;208:112557.
- Boeckxstaens G et al. Gut 2014;63(7):1185–1193.
- Healthline. Does milk relieve acid reflux? Reviewed 23 September 2019. Available from: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/milk-for-heartburn (accessed August 2023).
- Nam SY et al. J Neurogastroenterol Motil 2019;25(1):82–90.
- Rodriguez-Stanley S et al. Dig Dis Sci 2004;49(11–12):1862–1867.
- Ebrahimi-Mameghani M et al. Health Promot Perspect 2017;7(3):155–162.
- Jordon G et al. Physiology, Gastrin. StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan.
- Kaltenbach T et al. Arch Intern Med 2006;166(9):965–971.
- Little TJ et al. Am J Clin Nutr 2007;86(3):531–541.
- Rubio-Martin E et al. Nutrients 2017;9(8):877.
- Healthline. Comparing milks: almond, dairy, soy, rice, and coconut. Updated 24 March 2023. Available from: https://www.healthline.com/health/milk-almond-cow-soy-rice (accessed August 2023).
- Talley NJ et al. Aust Prescr. 2017;40(6):209–213.
- MacFarlane B. Integr Pharm Res Pract. 2018;7:41–752.
- World Gastroenterology Organisation. WGO Handbook on Heartburn: A global perspective, 2015.