That gooey pepperoni pizza might look and smell irresistible, but it’s not worth the heartburn or acid reflux. Good food choices will help ease your symptoms if you suffer from gastroesophageal reflux disease. Follow these tips to learn how to eat pizza with acid reflux and enjoy eating out at your favorite Italian restaurant again.
In this article you will learn:
- Why does pizza give me acid reflux?
- Tips for eating pizza with acid reflux
- Best pizza dough for acid reflux
- Best pizza sauce for acid reflux
- Best pizza toppings for acid reflux
- Best pizza cheese for acid reflux
- Best pizza recipes for acid reflux
Why Does Pizza Give Me Acid Reflux?
Fatty, salty, spicy, and acidic foods are common acid reflux and heartburn triggers. Unfortunately, that applies to many ingredients on traditional pizzas.
Fatty foods and spicy foods are acidic and may be causing acid reflux. There is a lot of fat and salt in processed meats, like spicy pepperoni, bacon, and salami. Fatty cheese is just as bad. And that amazing marinara sauce or barbecue sauce on your pizza base is acidic too and may give you acid reflux.
What Is Acid Reflux?
When you eat, food moves down your esophagus, past a one-way valve called your lower esophageal sphincter, and into your stomach where it mixes with hydrochloric acid and digestive enzymes.
If you’re prone to acid reflux symptoms, your lower esophageal sphincter may not be working correctly, allowing stomach acid to backflow into your esophagus, causing heartburn – a burning sensation in your chest.
Acid Reflux & GERD Symptoms
- burning sensation in your chest or heartburn
- chest pain
- stomach pain
- sore throat
- bitter taste in your mouth
If acid reflux is left untreated, it may develop into gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), and in rare cases, esophageal cancer.
Acid Reflux Trigger Foods
Eating large meals and eating certain foods, like traditional pizza, are common causes of acid reflux:
- spicy foods
- fatty foods, including fast food
- acidic foods, including tomato sauce and barbeque sauce
- salty foods
- high-fat dairy products like cream cheese and fatty cheese
- too much caffeine
9 Best Tips About How To Eat Pizza With Acid Reflux
You should be able to find a healthy pizza that won’t trigger symptoms of acid reflux. Here are our nine best tips for eating pizza with acid reflux. Let’s start at the crust and work up to the toppings.
TIP #1: Best Pizza Dough For Acid Reflux
A thin crust, preferably whole grains, is the best pizza dough for acid reflux. Pizza dough made with almond meal or cauliflower are other smart choices.
Or for a quick pizza base, try whole wheat pita bread.
Deep pan-fried pizza bases are full of fat. The white flour used in pizza dough breaks down to sugars during the digestive process, causing too much stomach acid and triggering acid reflux symptoms.
TIP #2: Best Pizza Sauce For Acid Reflux
The iconic red sauce on traditional pizza has a high acid content, so it’s a good idea to avoid tomato sauce or marinara sauce if you have acid reflux symptoms. Barbeque sauce and garlic are also common acid reflux triggers.
An olive-oil based sauce like basil pesto may be better than traditional pizza sauces but apply sparingly. Olive oil and parmesan cheese are key ingredients in pesto. They contain a lot of fat which stimulates acid production.
White sauce or alfredo sauce on pizza usually contains a lot of fat because it is made from cream cheese and other high-fat dairy products. Try a fat-free white sauce instead.
Butternut squash makes an unusually good pizza base. Check out this recipe we found.
TIP #3: Best Pizza Toppings For Acid Reflux
Lean meats like chicken or turkey breast, tuna and seafood are good options for acid reflux sufferers. Avoid processed deli meats like pepperoni and salami due to their high fat content. A vegan pizza may be another suitable choice.
Green peppers, broccoli, mushrooms and cauliflower are good options. Green leafy vegetables like spinach and arugula (also called rocket) also make great pizza toppings.
If you’re acid reflux is mild, adding a small amount of tomato to your pizza may be OK. Yellow pear tomatoes have the least acidity.
Jalapenos, chilies, onion, garlic, tomato and pineapple are all common acid reflux trigger foods and should be avoided if they cause problems for you.
LEARN MORE: Best Foods for Acidity
TIP #4: Best Pizza Cheese For Acid Reflux
Often its the gooey cheese that makes pizza so irresistible. Unfortunately, loading your pizza with greasy high-fat cheese makes it among the worst foods for acid reflux. Cheese is high in salt and fat, aggravating symptoms of acid reflux.
Beware of white sauce made with fatty cheese like cream cheese or parmesan cheese. Sauces made with cream or other high-fat dairy products will also cause problems..
The best cheese options for acid reflux include:
- reduce the amount of cheese on your pizza
- don’t put cheese on your pizza
- sprinkle a small amount of low-fat cheese or fat-free cheese (like fat-free mozzarella or cottage cheese)
TIP #5: Timing
If you lie down, do vigorous exercise, or wear something tight around your waist before your stomach is empty, you may experience symptoms of reflux.
The digestive process plays a big part in whether you get acid reflux symptoms from eating pizza. If food doesn’t digest properly, your stomach contents must go somewhere, so you may get acid reflux.
Your stomach takes a long time, three to four hours in fact, to empty. But the digestive process will take longer if you eat lots of fatty foods like pizza.
TIP #6: Chew Your Pizza
Eat slowly and chew your pizza well before swallowing. This helps speed up digestion, minimizing the amount of acid in your stomach.
TIP #7: Portion Control
If you’re craving pizza, try to stick to one slice of pizza made from ingredients least likely to trigger your acid reflux symptoms.
When eating pizza, try filling up on a green leafy salad with other low acid veggies like cucumber, butternut squash or avocado.
Eating lots of foods that trigger your acid reflux symptoms is a recipe for disaster. Overeating puts pressure on your stomach, forcing your lower esophageal sphincter open and stomach acid and stomach contents to reflux.
TIP #8: What To Drink With Pizza For Acid Reflux
It’s best to stick with water when eating pizza as there will be enough going on in your stomach without adding to the problem.
Sodas, soft drinks, beer, or a glass of wine often go hand in hand with eating pizza. And if you’re eating out with friends you may finish the meal with a cup of coffee. These drinks can worsen your acid reflux.
The gas bubbles in soda put pressure on your stomach, and a glass of wine or beer will loosen your lower esophageal sphincter. Energy drinks are very acidic and cause the problems too.
Coffee and other caffeinated beverages increase acidity in your stomach and loosen your lower esophageal sphincter.
TIP #9: What About Dessert?
If you’ve eaten a few slices of pizza, it’s probably best to skip dessert. Too much food in your stomach puts pressure on your lower esophageal sphincter, causing acid reflux.
Best Pizza Recipes For Acid Reflux
It is possible to have a delicious meal of healthy pizza that is unlikely to trigger acid reflux symptoms. The pizza recipes below are suitable for acid reflux and GERD sufferers. Please note that in some instances recipe modifications are suggested.
Tomato-Free Pasta Sauce
This recipe is for those who love tomato sauce on your pizza. Spread this tomato-free sauce (also called “nomato” sauce) on your pizza, then sprinkle with other suitable toppings like green peppers, mushrooms, lean meats like chicken, turkey, or seafood, and a little no-fat mozzarella.
Cauliflower Pizza Crust
Regular pizza crust may trigger your symptoms if you have chronic acid reflux. Cauliflower is a delicious alternative to flour in regular pizza dough.
Follow the topping suggestions in the recipe, but be sure to substitute the tomato sauce for the tomato-free pizza sauce recipe above. You could also choose your own acid reflux friendly toppings.
Chicken and Goat Cheese Pizza With Fresh Herbs
Getting away from traditional pizza, here’s a tasty chicken pizza with acid reflux friendly veggies. Make a thin base or use whole grain pita bread. If you don’t like goats cheese, substitute with a low-fat cheese like mozzarella or ricotta. Keep the meal light by filling up on a green leafy vegetable salad.
Butternut Squash Veggie Pizza
Butternut squash is not what you’d expect to find on a pizza, but it makes a delicious meal. Loaded with low acid veggies, it’s a simple healthy pizza that will satisfy your cravings. If onions or garlic trigger acid reflux for you, leave them off.
Pizza With Hummus, Olives, and Feta
This is a different take on pizza, but it uses ingredients that don’t usually trigger acid reflux.
You can make substitutes if you prefer. Choose low-fat feta, and go easy on the feta and olives. A drizzle of basil pesto would be a delicious addition.
The best news about this pizza is that it doesn’t need cooking and you can make it in a flash!
FAQS: How To Eat Pizza With Acid Reflux
Does pizza cause acid reflux?
Many ingredients on traditional pizza are common acid reflux trigger foods such as thick pizza bases, tomato sauce, high-fat cheese, fatty meats like pepperoni and red meat, jalapenos, onion, garlic, and pineapple.
Typically, the high-fat content of pizza causes the digestive process to slow, so emptying the stomach happens more slowly, and more stomach acid is produced.
Can you eat white pizza with GERD?
White pizza has a white sauce or alfredo sauce topping containing cream cheese or other high-fat dairy products like cheese. Pizza ingredients containing a lot of fat stimulate acid production in your stomach, giving you acid reflux.
If you have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) you could try substituting low-fat cheese or fat-free cheese and thinly spread the white sauce.
Is pizza acidic or alkaline?
Traditional pizza is acidic. Pizza contains a lot of fat and salt in the form of processed meats, like spicy pepperoni and salami, and fatty cheese. Fatty foods and spicy foods are acidic. And that amazing marinara sauce or barbecue sauce on your pizza base is acidic too. Fatty, salty, spicy, and acidic foods are common acid reflux and heartburn triggers.
Is mozzarella cheese OK for acid reflux?
Mozzarella is milder and less acidic cheese than some other cheeses. Fresh mozzarella is slightly less acidic than regular mozzarella cheese (1) and is also lower in fat, so it may be OK if you have acid reflux, but remember not to overeat. You can buy mozzarella fat-free cheese or low-fat mozzarella at most supermarkets.
Is vegan pizza better for acid reflux?
Vegan pizza can be better for acid reflux, but you must choose your ingredients carefully and exercise portion control. Vegan cheese contains less saturated fat and salt, which are common acid reflux trigger foods. Avoid acidic sauces such as tomato sauce or barbecue sauce. Also, hold back on jalapenos, onions, and garlic if they give you acid reflux symptoms.
Can pregnant women with chronic acid reflux symptoms eat pizza?
Pregnant women with chronic acid reflux symptoms should probably avoid eating traditional pizza because it has a high acid content. But you could try eating a small slice of pizza if you have cravings.
Small frequent meals are better than large meals due to the added pressure on your stomach caused by your growing baby.
Choose a thin crust, fat-free white sauce or fat-free cheese, lean meats like turkey or chicken breast, or a vegan pizza. Green leafy vegetables, mushrooms, and green peppers are good choices for pizza toppings if you have severe symptoms.