before hernia - my reflux was triggered by food intolerances

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Veteran Member

Date Joined Oct 2009
Total Posts : 5028
   Posted 10/8/2009 12:49 PM (GMT -6)   
Before my accident caused a giant paraesophageal hernia, I had my reflux under control.  I found out that I was  allergic (my allergists term) to a list of seemingly unrelated foods, which were discovered by keeping a food log and doing "challenge testing."  These foods would, if eaten in any quantity, trigger reflux and sometimes tachycardia.
 My list: 

Bagels, commercial Bread

Bottled Juices – especially containing grape, lemon or lime juice

Brown Sugar, White Beet Sugar (all brands not labeled cane)   


Canned Soup

Catsup, Mustard

Cereals, boxed

Cheese, especially hard cheeses


Chocolate, especially dark

cookies, especially chocolate chip

Corn Starch (fillers in gravy, pie filling, some medications)

Corn Syrup, dextrose, maltodextrin

Dried Fruits – except prunes

Eggs, if more than 1

French Fries, packaged mashed potatoes – no reflux with fresh potatoes


Ice cream, Sherbet


Jams and Jellies (pectin) – no reflux with the raw fruits

            Maple Syrup

            Milk, powdered – used as filler in “all milk” yogurt and some skim milk

Mixed Spices, especially with pepper

            Packaged, Cooked Meats

            Peanut Butter


Pizza (crust, cheese, sauce, toppings)

            Pork, Sausage

            Puddings, Pumpkin Pie

Sodas (more than 1 cup)

Tea and Herbal Tea (few brands)

Tomato Sauce

            Tuna, some brands, canned – containing soy

            Yogurt (more than 1 cup) especially low fat varieties (powdered milk added)

            Wine, Beer


And what do these foods have in common?  Sulfites.  (SO2 - not sulfates or sulfides)
By avoiding sulfite-laden foods as much as possible, I am now able to eat the occasional slice of pizza.  Just not two slices!
I've also made lists of common medications, mostly injectible drugs, I need to avoid and over-the-counter medications which are sulfited.  This is important as I am planning on fundoplication for my herniated stomach in the near future.

Elite Member

Date Joined Apr 2007
Total Posts : 32602
   Posted 10/9/2009 12:23 PM (GMT -6)   
Thank you so much for sharing what you have found works for you as far as eliminating foods that trigger your reflux.  It feels to me like you put a lot of hard work and effort into discovering what your triggers were.  You are being your own best advocate, congratulations.
Take care,


Moderator: Osteoarthritis, GERD/Heartburn
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Veteran Member

Date Joined Oct 2009
Total Posts : 5028
   Posted 10/9/2009 2:47 PM (GMT -6)   
Thanks, Kitt.
I've been a GERD sufferer for over 25 years, taken various meds as they were invented.  I have a science background, worked in pharmacology testing labs.  
I now take Nexium 20 mg twice a day because my LES is sitting open most of the time because it's sitting with part of my stomach in my chest.  But ppi's and other acid reducers don't do anything for reflux or spasms.
I found I was getting reflux after eating certain foods years ago.  I would often get tachycardia after the reflux started.  One day I ate a bowl of cereal, went out to work in the garden and got reflux.  A few minutes later the spasms got worse and I realized I was having a heart attack.  It was a minor attack, mainly a vasospasm that woldn't quit, I think, because the enzymes (blood chemistry) wasn't bad.  But I still needed a stent.  (High cholesterol and didn't lose the 40 lbs after the last kid)
I started researching more and saw a couple of allergists.  The first one said I didn't have any food allergies, but the second one said she sees this all the time and got me started keeping a food journal and doing challenge testing to pinpoint the item in the meal that was the offender.  I thought up sulfite because I suddenly had a problem with the new batch of wine I had made .. and sulfited.  Sure enough, there was my list of trigger foods.  Most people with known sulfite allergies get migranes, but reflux IS known.  There is no recognized test for sulfites other than challenge testing.
From reading the posts on this list for a long time I have seen many people posting problems with foods.  Just about all the foods I've seen people complain of are known to have sulfites.  Since even most of the doctors I've seen have never heard of, and often don't believe, that sulfites might trigger reflux, I thought I'd put up my list.
I don't have a problem eating in other countries because sulfites are illegal in most.  Wine, of course, contains natural sulfite in the grape juice, so that remains a problem.
By eliminating my reflux triggers I avoided reflux and surgery for a long time.  Then came the accident, so I'm probably going to be scheduled for a Nissen because there's no other cure for paraesophageal hernia.  But I hope others will at least try keeping a food journal and maybe thereby avoid the heart attack that I had.

New Member

Date Joined Oct 2009
Total Posts : 17
   Posted 10/12/2009 2:14 AM (GMT -6)   
Hi Alice,

My food triggers so far are:
Hershey's Milk Chocolate, but not some others
Semi-sweet chips
Dark chocolate
Dry cookies (like Famous Amos) and some homemade cookies (usually chocolate chip with oats)
Coffee (caf or decaf, doesn't matter)
Canned Tea (like Lipton Lemon Brisk)
Pepperoni Pizza in small, any pizza in larger amounts
Bran cereals

Are these sulfited foods? I noticed that Onions have a natural sulfur compound in them, I wonder if there is some relationship. Can you eat onions raw?

Veteran Member

Date Joined Oct 2009
Total Posts : 5028
   Posted 10/12/2009 7:50 AM (GMT -6)   
Dear Acid Storm -
Yes, your list are all at least potentially sulfited foods.  I suggest keeping a really careful food journal and writing down your reactions to everything you eat.
You will find sulfites are almost never listed on labels.  The exception is things over 100ppm, like bottled lemon juice - although that is not listed when it's just an ingredient in something like the bottled tea or jams and jellies.  Frozen lemon juice - from the frozen juice section of the grocery store - is clean!
Pizza dough and most other commercially baked goods have sulfite added as a dough conditioner.  Bread baked in a grocery comes in frozen, and conditined, so that's not helpful either.
When I go out to eat I am careful to ask for no seasoning except salt.  I don't eat the bread, bring my own teabags because some brands are preserved, bring my own salad dressing, ask for no onions in the salad ....
Watch especially for things made from corn: corn syrup, corn starch, maltodextrin, dextrose.  The amount of sulfite in ingredients has been calculated by a guy with a website at learningtarget.  He's got a whole free book online.  I don't think it's allowed to post websites in this page, but I will try to put it in the forum's resources.
I find that my level of tolerance is about 600 - 700 micrograms total for a day.  A lot of people are lower and many higher in tolerance.  My tolerance gets better when I avoid sulfites religiously for a few weeks. 

If you look at the nutrition label, you will see that a typical can contains 355 ml. The "ml" stands for milliliter (here we go again) and a milliliter of just about any liquid weighs a gram. So, a can of cola weighs 355 grams. From the list of ingredients on the cola label, you will find caramel color near the top. Our code name for the type of caramel used to color liquids is CCL and it has an SOx concentration of 0.34 based on the total weight of the cola. Multiply 355 times 0.34 and you get caramel color SOx. The nutrition label will also give the sugar weight to be around 40 grams. (Cola is mostly water, of course.) From reading the ingredient list on the label, the sweetener will most likely be high fructose corn syrup. This syrup has a code name HFS and an SOx concentration of 1.3 ppm based on the weight of the syrup. Multiply 40 times 1.3 and you get corn syrup SOx.

        121 ug SOx     Caramel Color (CCL): 355 x 0.34
        +52 ug SOx     High Fructose Syrup (HFS): 40 x 1.3
        173 ug SOx     Total micrograms Effective Sulfur Oxide in a can of cola


New Member

Date Joined Nov 2009
Total Posts : 2
   Posted 11/25/2009 4:34 PM (GMT -6)   
This all is very interesting. i had not heard of sulfites as being a factor in GERD. I actually think that I have a very mild form of GERD... my only symptoms are a dry cough when it bothers me, no pain, no discomfort (except the coughing, which can get pretty bad if I am "really bad").

The things that bother me a lot are:coffee, tomato juice and processed tomatoes(not fresh), bleu cheese dressing, wine, chocolate and orange juice. Those are all things on Alcie's list as well, except for the orange juice (bottled juice???). The low acid orange juice seems to be OK.

I really have not done extensive experiments trying to determine what I am sensitive to, but am concerned about having to take the 30 mg of Prevacid once or twice a day (twice if needed). I also have not been able to determine whether it is better to take the Prevacid in the morning, or before dinner, or after dinner, or ??? The doctor does not know, the information sheet does not say, the pharmacist does not know, and none of the blogs I have found seems to know. Strange.

I am going to try to avoid the foods stated, and see if I can stop taking the Prevacid.

New Member

Date Joined Nov 2009
Total Posts : 2
   Posted 11/25/2009 4:52 PM (GMT -6)   
Problems: Just thinking, what is left to eat? meat (except pork); fish?; baked potato; fresh fruit and vegetables (thought I heard that salad bars and restaurants put sulfites on their vegetables??); any bread???

I am retired and my wife wants to be retired also, so we go out to restaurants a lot... is there any hope?

I know, eat a lot of swordfish, and the mercury in the swordfish will bind with the sulfites in the rest of the food, and then I will be both mercury and sulfite free!!!!

Egads! A solution!

Veteran Member

Date Joined Oct 2009
Total Posts : 5028
   Posted 11/25/2009 6:10 PM (GMT -6)   
There's tons of food to eat!  Just stick to real food: not processed, packaged, shortcuts.  Salad bars haven't had sulfites for many years, but ALL processed potatoes, including the dry boxed ones, are allowed to have it to keep the product white.  Any method of keeping out oxygen will do, but sulfite is cheap.
First make sure sulfite is your problem.  Keep a food log.  Write down everything you eat and whether you have a reaction an hour or two hours later.  Then "challenge" test each food item in the suspect meals.  You can start with a tablespoon of things like potatoes, but maybe a teaspoon of avocado dip or other suspect foods.  Then twenty minutes later eat two T or t.  Another twenty minutes and 4, then 8, then 16.  Stop if you have a reaction!!!
When you have your list of trigger foods look on the various lists: sulfite food allergies, MSG, GERD ...  I'm not saying everyone with GERD is allergic to sulfites!  But food triggers are well known to us patients even if not to many doctors.  It's also probably that a lot of people have more than one intolerance.  I have a severe "true" allergy to sunflower seeds, and I don't tolerate milk well. 
Restaurants:  If you have food triggers, just avoid those foods.  I can't eat anything in Olive Garden.  Garlic is naturally a source of sulfite!  I do quite well in Wendy's.  I just avoid french fries and opt for the baked potato.  I am less afraid of a little plain salmon with maybe some mercury causing cancer in twenty years than something like barbecued ribs(pork, brown sugar) that I know will give me reflux and tachycardia before I get to the parking lot.
Bread is a real problem.  If a food place makes their own dough, it might be free of sulfite.  But most places, including grocery stores with bakeries, are lazy and bring in the dough frozen.  Then it's most likely got sulfite as a dough conditioner.  Pizza dough is generally on sulfite allergy lists.  I find if I avoid sulfited products I can tolerate a single slice of pizza once a month.  But that's an individual tolerance!
Cheeses are all different too.  I avoid the really tasty hard cheeses, or eat only what can go on a single cracker.  And not every day!
Tomatoes are great raw, but cooked into sauce they generally have vinegar, cheap sugar, etc, which are sulfited.
If we all check to see if we have at least a few trigger foods, we might reduce our symptoms even if we don't find a cure.

New Member

Date Joined May 2013
Total Posts : 3
   Posted 5/4/2013 8:45 AM (GMT -6)   
This is really interesting.  I've identified coffee and chocolate as triggers for my rheumatoid arthritis.  Your correlation to sulfites provides new lead for me to get this completely under control.
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