Neutralizing stomach acid by eating/drinking acidic foods?

Hello, as someone who intermittently suffers from heart burn and indigestion I do a lot of reading about natural ways to relieve these. It often claimed on the internet that acidic fruits like lemon and grapefruits actually reduce stomach acid. For example I’ve read a lot of claims like this:

“Like other citrus, although acidic before consumption, grapefruit turns alkaline once in the stomach.”

Other sites will tell you to avoid acidic fruits like the plague if you have an upset stomach. What’s the straight dope on this?

A diet high in fruits that haven’t been processed-- basically, raw fruits consumed as they are, without cooking them, or adding sugars, or anything to them-- is really good for your kidneys, and that’s good for generally keeping everything in your body that needs to be under tight pH control, controlled. But yeah, you are in fact, adding acid to acid.

However, heartburn isn’t necessarily caused by excess acid, or by acid that is too concentrated; it’s caused by reflux. Basically, you could be having laryngopharyngeal spasms that are sending acid up your esophagus where you don’t have the mucosal protection your stomach has.

I’ve been treated both for spasms, and for excess acid-- it’s a long story, but it starts with “I had a Helicobacter pylori infection when I was 12,” which was back when no one knew to look for that as a cause for stomach problems, and so I was treated as though everything was psychosomatic.

There also is something specific about lemons, I have some vague recall, but Google is failing me, that something in them down the metabolic line contributes to the production of the alkali bath in your intestines that neutralizes the inflow from the stomach. You can eat other things besides lemons, and I don’t think other citrus fruit help; just lemons.

IANAD-- just someone who’s gone round the block with diets and stomach medications a few times.

Maybe someone else can do better with Google, or remembers exactly what the role of lemons is in alkali balance.

“Citrus fruits are actually alkaline” is a mainstay in the pseudoscientific alt-med idea that some foods are making your blood acidic. That doesn’t mean there isn’t an actual positive effect on heartburn, but it does make it plausible any non-rigorous sources could be similarly deluded.

Oh-- yeah. “Acidic blood” is the latest alt-med boogyman. I’ve been told to “Alkaline” (yes, as a verb) to cure my insomnia. Since I am pretty desperate where insomnia is concerned (especially at 3:30am), I looked it up, but it was the BS it seemed at first whiff.

Nothing can make your blood acidic other than serious kidney disease. Your blood functions at pretty much a pH of 7.4, and anything outside of that causes catastrophe, so your kidneys keep your blood pH really tightly controlled unless they just can’t.

This is incidentally why the prime time for getting a yeast infection is right after your period, because vaginal secretions are slightly acidic, which is unfriendly to most yeast, and menstrual blood neutralizes them-- but also keeps up a flow that stops yeast from getting a foothold. It’s the one day of so that you’re not getting much flow, but the pH is still neutral, that the yeast get cozy. It’s also why vinegar and water douches are not, in fact, total BS, if you are a woman who gets repeated yeast infections right after your period, as I got taken to task for by a woman you was plagued by them (yeast infections, that is) until she began using a douche right after her period.

Anyway, apparently the whole “Your body gets acidic, and this is bad,” is a misunderstanding of something that’s not good for you, but not really harmful in the long run, since it’s more of a symptom than an actual disease: lactic acidosis. This is when lactic acid, which is a metabolic byproduct, builds up in your muscles instead of being eliminated. It mostly happens to people with kidney disease or metabolic disorders, but people who overexert themselves can experience it-- I think it happened to me once during a run at basic training.

It’s very painful, and I had a thing that started out feeling like shinsplints, then got worse, until my legs became numb. I made it back to our gear, but ended up sort of crawl-rolling to my spot, and just sitting during the cool-down. As feeling came back to my legs, it came in waves of pain. But it was gone in about 10 minutes.

Apparently, if I’d been even just a little dehydrated when I set out on the run, on one of the first pretty warm days in February in S. Carolina, it could have easily happened. I wasn’t in great running shape when I got there, and it was only about week 3.

But build-up of a metabolic byproduct is not the same thing as “Your blood is acidic.”

Also, the “alt-med” solution of drinking alkaline water and eating “foods that alkaline (sic) the body” obviously neutralize as soon as they hit stomach acid.

Medical advice is best suited to IMHO rather than GQ.

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I think it’s probably pretty telling that the only other place besides the worst sort of woo, where I’ve EVER heard of alkaline blood is in *“The Andromeda Strain”. Sadly, the book is likely more scientifically accurate.

In the movie, the old man had metabolic alkalosis as a result of being an alcoholic (IIRC he was a habitual Sterno drinker). It wasn’t made up for the movie (I didn’t read the book). Crichton had an M.D. and was known for being diligent about the underlying science in his stories, even if the stories were on the edge of plausibility.

The idea that citrus fruits have an alkalizing effect is based on something called “potential renal acid load”. These fruits produce sufficiently alkaline metabolic products that they’re generally viewed as “alkalizing”, though eating them won’t change your blood/body pH.

In your stomach however this effect won’t be seen, and eating citrus can actually worsen acid reflux/GERD.

Here’s an explanatory link. The Respectful Insolence article “Acid, Base or Woo?” is a classic.

ISTR that there was a baby with the same condition because it had screamed so much that it threw off its blood pH as well.

My point ultimately is that it’s a plot point in a sci-fi thriller because alkaline blood is SO uncommon, not something that is actually a “thing”, as we have plenty of buffer capacity in our bodies that keep our blood at the right pH for all our enzymatic reactions and whatever else is dependent on pH. It’s part of our homeostasis.

Think about how messed up we’d be if we could get our pH out of whack by drinking too much lemonade, for example. We can’t- I’d be willing to bet that a gallon of lemonade isn’t going to change your blood pH at all.

I read up on this when I was being a busy insomniac reading up on every desperate straw I could grasp. Basically, fluids in our body either have some function that requires a specific pH, and we keep them there pretty tightly, or the fluids transport waste, in which case the pH varies with what we need to get rid of.

I have litmus paper, because I have aquariums, and so one morning when I was up, I checked as many fluids as I had access to. Everything was working.

But just a note: blood (human, anyway) is alkali. It has a pH of 7.4, if you are healthy, so it’s not highly alkali, but it’s not neutral.

As someone with enough acid reflux to have developed a precancerous condition (Barrett’s esophagus) i can say that in my case, the issue is not that there’s acid in the stomach – that’s normal and usually helpful – it’s that acid leaks out of the stomach into the base of the esophagus, where it causes inflammation.

My esophageal sphincter is leaky enough that i need to keep my stomach from getting too acidic. (And i take drugs to do that.) But many people can manage the problem by avoiding foods that promote reflux, like caffeine, or by making sure not to lie down for a couple hours after eating.

Other people actually have ulcers in the stomach, and the pH of the stomach matters.

Fortunately, it’s quite easy to tell if you have heartburn. I suggest you keep a diary of what you eat, what you do, and when you have heartburn, and see what triggers heartburn for you.

With the baby it was acidosis. Maybe alkalosis is uncommon, I have no idea. But it’s probably more common in Sterno drinkers than the general public.

Yeah. Acidosis comes from exertion. It’s probably what I got on the PT run. It’s not exactly “acidic blood.” Lactic acid is a metabolic by-product that is in your muscles, and must be eliminated through your kidneys as waste. Your blood is meant to carry a certain amount of lactic acid at a time, and usually keeps up just fine. But over-exertion can overwhelm the ability of your blood to transport lactic acid to your kidneys, so it accumulates in your muscles, and this is painful.

When my son was a baby, I read an article that suggested that lactic acidosis might be behind colic in at least some babies. They start crying about something, over-exert, experience pain, continue crying, and therefore, the pain continues. Then, after a few episodes, they start to associate crying with pain. Eventually, they get big enough that their blood volume can handle the exertion of crying, and the memory of pain=crying fades, because babies don’t have great memories, so colic resolves.

I never read anything more in this, and I don’t know if anyone reached any conclusions on this-- I don’t know if anyone actually measured lactic acid levels in colicky infants; I just read this one article. My son was never colicky, so I didn’t pursue the subject.

Wow so many people willing to just post anti-woo stuff that no one seems to be addressing the OP. The OP never ventured into woo blood acidity, he mentioned only stomach acidity which is not woo, but how the digestion system works.

Now there does seems logical that if you try to counter the acid, your body will adjust to try to bring itself back into balance, we see this in many aspects of the human body. It also seems logical like the opposite is true, if you add acid your body may create less on it’s own.

The anti-woo stuff is addressing the OP. Although they write “reduce stomach acid” what they are really after is whether citrus reduces “stomach acidity”, and that idea surely comes from the same woo logic where citrus effect on urine is thought to restore blood alkalinity.

But as the very first answer explains, heart burn isn’t correlated with stomach acidity. Your stomach content, except right after a large intake, is always acidic enough to cause irritation if it gets into your esophagus.

I suffer from GERD (Gastroesophageal reflux disease) and have a long list of foods that I should avoid. The foods at the top of the list that can cause the most problems includes all citrus fruits. Citrus and other acidic foods such as tomato and pineapple will haunt me for hours if I eat them so I avoid them at all costs. Carbonated beverages and chocolate also give me grief so I avoid them too.

Actually, the OP has been addressed. Refer to my previous post for example.

The idea that stomach acid can be “neutralized” by consuming acidic foods is woo.

I, too, addressed the OP directly.

A dozen years ago, my sister was told by her GP that while it seemed counterintuitive, the current thought was that the stomach could overproduce acid in response to ingesting antacids, so instead, try eating something acidic to keep the stomach from over-responding. So the idea wasn’t to neutralize the acid per se, but to avoid triggering the over-release of more acid.

I don’t think this was woo, but something that seemed worth a shot. I have no idea if my sister tried it or if it worked.

There’s something called “acid rebound” which can occur after taking high dose antacids over a long period of time, but is not thought to be clinically significant. The idea that eating something acidic along with antacids to prevent rebound doesn’t make much sense and I haven’t seen evidence that it works.

It’s important to remember that stomach acid is very acidic, with a pH as low as 1-2. Even the most acidic foods can’t equal that. You could eat an “alkaline” meal or conversely drink a glass of lemon juice without having an appreciable effect on gastric acidity.