Header Graphic


  Are Onions Bad For Heartburn?

It’s really weird how majority of the population does not even stop to think before popping food into their mouths. But this happy go lucky attitude lasts only as long as there is no health disorder or discomfort following eating. There is a much popular Indian proverb that beautifully sums up the state of mind of a person, once he / she has had an unpleasant experience following the consumption of unfavorable food. “A cat that has scalded its tongue with hot milk will steer clear of chilled buttermilk too”.  

are onions bad for your heartburn?
Something similar to this can be expected of people when they experience heartburn after eating a particular food. If this experience repeats one more time, then in all probability they will be scarred for life, much like the proverbial cat that got her tongue scalded. Suffering from GERD is not an easy feat. More so because the food that nourishes can very often turn into a disastrous reflux trigger for many of these folks. No wonder that such patients are forever concerned about each item of food, and tend to ask around if so and so food could trigger a reflux episode. They are testing the waters first, and will eat only after they have had re-assuring opinions from friends and family and fellow GERD sufferers. 

This fear of having to go through the burning hell that certain foods raise is the basis of the query, “Are onions bad for heartburn?” That is quite a difficult question to answer because many of the recipes call for onions added to the dish as a paste or blended into the dish by sautéing. It is rarely that anyone opts to eat onions separately.  

While WebMD has blacklisted onion amongst the top 10 heartburn foods, it would be very discriminatory to declare that onions should be avoided by all people who suffer from reflux disorders, merely to save themselves from the burning sensation in the gullet. As I always tend to say and firmly believe, no food can be labeled as safe or harmful on a universal basis. “One man’s food is another man’s poison”, so check out for yourselves if onions are really bad enough to trigger your episode of distress or simply another item to be added on to your safe foods list.  

But in case you still are interested in what others have got to say about the effect of onions, read these research results. According to the research results published by Allen ML, onions are capable of relaxing the sphincter that guards the lower end of the esophagus and thus allow the acid to reflux back and create the burning sensation and discomfort. The study was conducted on 16 normal subjects and 16 subjects with reflux disorder. Another interesting find from this research was that onions were harmful only in the raw form and lost their capability to harm once they were cooked. The raw onions were confirmed to create long lasting distress in the subjects. 

Personally, I would like to keep myself away from onions, but not for the reason that you think. Onions cause a lot of colic and abdominal bloating for me, that’s it. Not to mention the awful stink they raise in your mouth after chewing on one of those heavenly looking and enticing pinkish hued onion rings that are usually stuffed as burger fillings. So the bottom line is that life is about taking risks. Well, I am not suggesting that you jump off a cliff to test if it could break your skull or take you directly to the nether world. I am just suggesting that you take teeny weenie risks like eating onion rings or raw onion and check out for yourself if you want to keep it or kick it for life. 

This scenario is based on the premise that you do not yet know if onions can worsen your acid reflux symptoms’ or not. But in case you already have taken the risk and eaten them, only to land up with great burning and distress in your stomach, I suggest that you use any of the over the counter antacids. But if I were you, I would consider medical counsel before popping any pill or antacid into my mouth. So play safe, eat safe and stay safe! 

 Allen ML “The effect of raw onions on acid reflux and reflux symptoms’ Am J Gastroenterol; 1990 Apr;85(4):377-80