If youâ€™ve ever felt a burning sensation in your chest during or after eating, youâ€™ve likely experienced acid reflux â€” also called heartburn.
This uncomfortable, frustrating condition is caused by stomach acid moving up into your esophagus. It affects over 25% of the North American population (1).
Diet, stress, body weight, smoking, pregnancy, and other lifestyle factors may trigger this condition. In particular, the foods and spices you eat may cause acid reflux or worsen its symptoms.
Cinnamon is one of the worldâ€™s most popular spices and widely debated as a cure or cause of acid reflux. As such, you may wonder whether to eat it if you have acid reflux.
This article explains whether cinnamon causes or treats acid reflux.
What is cinnamon?
Cinnamon is a popular spice used in many cultural dishes around the world. Itâ€™s commonly used in desserts, breakfast dishes, and warm beverages.
Itâ€™s also beneficial for your health thanks to its polyphenol plant compounds, which have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. In particular, itâ€™s high in cinnamic acid, cinnamaldehyde, and various flavonoids (2).
The most widely available type is cassia cinnamon, which is usually more processed and contains fewer antioxidants. On the other hand, Ceylon cinnamon is considered â€œtrueâ€ cinnamon. It contains more antioxidants but is hard to find in most stores (3, 4).
Thereâ€™s little data on either typeâ€™s effects on health conditions, such as acid reflux.
Cinnamon is a popular spice found in many desserts, breakfast dishes, and warm beverages. It contains many polyphenol antioxidants.
Does this spice cause or cure acid reflux?
To date, no research suggests that cinnamon causes or exacerbates acid reflux.
Anecdotally, it has been reported to worsen this condition in some people, especially when consumed in large quantities.
That said, this spice is rarely eaten by itself, usually used in small quantities, and often served with other triggering foods, such as coffee or chocolate, which make it difficult to tie it directly to worsened symptoms.
Moreover, thereâ€™s no direct evidence to suggest that cinnamon cures acid reflux. Therefore, itâ€™s best to work with your healthcare provider to find more effective treatments.
Triggers of acid reflux vary widely
Triggers of acid reflux are highly individual, and what affects one person may not affect another. Therefore, itâ€™s important to pay attention to your own eating habits to determine whether cinnamon or other foods trigger your symptoms (5).
If you think that cinnamon may be worsening your symptoms, try eliminating it from your diet for 3â€“4 weeks. If your symptoms improve, you may want to limit or completely avoid this spice. If your symptoms donâ€™t improve, you can reintroduce it to your diet.
Until more research is available, itâ€™s best to listen to your body and only eliminate foods that worsen your acid reflux symptoms.
If youâ€™re not sure where to start, consult a doctor or registered dietitian to help determine the best course of action.
Which foods are linked to acid reflux?
The main foods associated with increased acid reflux are coffee, chocolate, alcohol, mint, spicy foods, and acidic foods, such as tomatoes or oranges. Spices like chili pepper, black pepper, cayenne, and nutmeg may also worsen symptoms (5, 6, 7, 8).
These foods may irritate the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), a bundle of muscles at the bottom of your esophagus that controls the movement of food into your stomach. Normally, it prevents acid from leaving the stomach and damaging the esophagus (5, 6).
When the LES is weakened, stomach acid can move into the esophagus and damage tissue, leading to heartburn (5, 6).
Anecdotally, eating large amounts of cinnamon may worsen acid reflux symptoms in some people. That said, research is needed to support these claims.
Tips to managing acid reflux
Learning to manage acid reflux is important for your comfort and health. Untreated, ongoing acid reflux can lead to serious conditions like Barrettâ€™s esophagus, esophageal cancer, difficulty swallowing, and chronic pain (5, 9, 10).
Here are some helpful lifestyle tips for managing your acid reflux (5, 9, 10, 11):
- Reduce trigger foods. Reduce or remove foods, drinks, or spices that worsen your acid reflux. For most people, reducing portion sizes and how often you eat trigger foods alleviates symptoms. Youâ€™ll rarely need to completely eliminate foods.
- Lose weight. Overweight and obesity are associated with higher rates of acid reflux due to additional abdominal pressure, which causes stomach acid to leak into the esophagus.
- Quit smoking. Smoking relaxes the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), allowing stomach acid to enter the esophagus. It also increases your risk of esophageal cancer.
- Avoid or limit alcohol. Alcohol may relax the LES, leading to worsened symptoms. Limit yourself to one to two drinks on occasion or avoid alcohol entirely.
- Eat sitting up. Lying down during or after a meal can lead to indigestion and acid reflux due to higher amounts of stomach acid entering the esophagus. Wait at least 2â€“3 hours before lying down or going to sleep.
- Wear loose clothing. Tight clothing puts additional pressure on the abdomen, which can worsen acid reflux.
- Eat small, frequent meals. Larger meals may produce more stomach acid and increase abdominal pressure, leading to worsened symptoms.
- Avoid exercise after eating. Wait at least 30â€“60 minutes to allow food to digest before exercising.
If your symptoms continue or worsen, speak with your doctor for personalized recommendations, which may include over-the-counter or prescription medication and â€” in rare cases â€” surgery.
Most people can manage their acid reflux symptoms with small lifestyle changes. In some cases, you may need to consult a health professional for other treatment methods, such as medications.
The bottom line
If youâ€™ve ever experienced acid reflux, youâ€™ll know that the foods you eat are one of the main culprits.
Like many spices, cinnamon has been said to worsen acid reflux symptoms, especially when eaten in large amounts. However, no research currently proves that cinnamon causes or worsens acid reflux.
Itâ€™s likewise unlikely to alleviate this condition.
That said, people with acid reflux have different triggers. If you suspect that cinnamon is causing your acid reflux, try eliminating it from your diet for 3â€“4 weeks to see if your symptoms subside.
For most people, trial and error with lifestyle changes will help you identify triggers and best manage acid reflux.