Dining with GERD or acid reflux issues can be challenging, especially when choosing the right meal. Instead of regretting that one gooey pizza slice layered with toppings, one should consider several things so that you do not feel sorry for the dine-out.
Nutritional Composition of Pizza
A slice of 14″ of regular crust pizza has the following nutritional composition:
- Calories: 266
- Total fat: 1 g
- Saturated fat: 4.5g
- Trans fat regulation: 0.2g
- Potassium: 172 mg
- Carbohydrates: 33 g
- Sugar: 3.6g
- Dietary fiber: 2.3g
- Protein: 11g
- Cholesterol: 17 mg
- Sodium: 598 mg
- Vitamin C: 2% of Daily Value (DV)
- Calcium: 18% of DV
- Iron: 13% of DV
- Magnesium: 6% of DV
- Vitamin B6: 5% of DV
Is Pizza Acidic?
A question often hovers over the mind of the pizza-lover: ‘Is pizza acidic?’ In a direct conclusion, pizza is quite acidic, generally due to the higher acidity levels of its ingredients, viz, sauce, toppings, dough, etc. The pH level of the toppings and sauces differentiates the acidity level of the pizza.
A study titled ‘Urinary pH in calcium oxalate stone formers: does it matter?’ published in the Brazilian Journal of Nephrology shows that some types of animal proteins, especially cheese, cause acidity in the urine, often leading to the formation of uric acid stones or kidney stones. As far as we consider the baking process of the pizza, the crust does not change its proteins when baked at 316 Degrees Celsius for 4.5 minutes.
According to the ‘Effect of Baking on Amino Acids in Pizza Crust’ published in the Journal of Food Science, short baking time and the high temperature reduces lysine and, to some extent, cystine, tyrosine, and threonine in the crusts. The loss percentage differs in the whole wheat crust and the commercial crusts (usually made from all-purpose flour), 7.1% and 19.4%, respectively. It leads to the destruction of the nutritive content, especially amino acid content in the crust.
What is the pH of Pizza?
It is pretty difficult to determine the pH level of the pizza due to the difference in the toppings and sauces. Generally, tomato is the main sauce ingredient, having a higher pH value of 4.3 to 4.9, acid-forming capacity, and sodium content. Consequently, this makes it acidic, making it tough to digest, especially when consumed in higher quantities.
Does Consuming Pizza Cause GERD/Acid Reflux?
Amidst this, one question pops into one’s mind, ‘Is pizza good for you?’ Well, pizza does not fall into the category of healthy food. Instead, it is high in calorie count. A slice of pizza containing meat and veggies has approx 300 calories. High calories often slow down digestion, causing weight gain and making one feel lethargic.
As major calories in pizza come from its fat and carbohydrate content, these two nutrients make it difficult for the stomach to digest. Consequently, it leads to the increased production of acid in the stomach.
Increased acid causes heartburn and unpleasant symptoms of GERD or acidity. When you consume a slice of pizza, your stomach produces acid to digest the meal. However, the faulty-valve-like structure causes acid to run amok, which leaks into the esophagus, triggering a burning sensation in the chest.
No sooner do you take a bite of the pizza (say pepperoni pizza) than it enters the stomach through the esophagus. A valve-like muscle ring called the lower esophageal sphincter opens up to allow the food to enter the stomach.
Once the food enters the stomach, it closes automatically. It helps prevent stomach acid from entering the esophageal tract. In certain conditions, the sphincter does not work well, wherein acid seeps above, causing acid reflux. It is often irritable and painful, leading to heartburn or related symptoms.
One of the common symptoms of acid reflux is heartburn or the painful burning sensation occurring in the middle of the chest. Sometimes, the discomfort gets worse when you lie down or bend over. Other symptoms include difficulty swallowing and sour-tasting fluid in the back of the throat.
Eating large quantities of pizza slices increases the risk of GERD. GERD or Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease is the severe condition of acidity which occurs due to consistent and frequent acid reflux situations. If one fails to acquire the GERD treatment, it may cause ulcers, inflammation, scarring, and cell alteration in the esophageal lining, increasing the risk of esophageal cancer.
The garlic, herbs, tomato, cheese, meats, and sausages make the pizza acidic. Hence, avoiding such ingredients would help relax the lower esophageal sphincter, eliminating frequent acid reflux.
Can People With IBS have Pizza?
The popular cheese options used in pizza, like, feta and mozzarella, provide a creamy texture. However, it is full of whey which might prove a nightmare for IBS patients. However, it does not mean they should stop consuming them. Instead, they should prefer pizzas with no cheese and the right veggies.
Can Pizza Be Consumed in a Healthy Way?
Generally, the preparation method of the dough also lifts up its acidity level. However, traditionally baked pizza is far better than commercial ones. Consuming pizza from a reputable store that uses healthy ingredients would be better.
Tomato sauce is the most acidic part of the pizza. Hence, one can prevent severe acidity by replacing the tomato sauce with other sauces (like bell pepper sauces). Red bell pepper is not only red in color but also has alkaline properties. It helps counterbalance the acidic content of pizza, calming the irritable heartburn caused due to acid reflux.
People often get confused about whether they should consume pizza when suffering from acid reflux. Pizza is a healthy meal when baked using whole wheat. Moreover, one should prefer fresh ingredients instead of packaged or processed ones and limit portion sizes.
Who Can Not Have Pizza?
If you have frequent acidity issues or GERD disorder, it is best to avoid pizza. Patients with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) should also avoid its frequent consumption. Freshly baked pizzas with healthy and authentic toppings, no cheese, is a better option if you cannot resist your love for pizza.
Although putting a complete halt to pizza consumption is not possible, one can limit its intake and prefer less acidic ones. In other words, one must use fresh sauces that are less acidic and replace sausages and meat with fresh veggies. One should also consider the cheese and its acidic content to enjoy the gooey aspect of the pizza without any compromise.