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Why Does Pizza Give Me Heartburn? (It’s in the Ingredients)

For a lot of people, pizza is the best food in the world. It comes with cheese, tomato sauce, and all the different ingredients you can think of. 

Unfortunately, it’s often considered unhealthy and high in calories and sodium.

What’s more, some people who love pizza might experience heartburn after eating this type of fast food. Is it just because you ate too much in one sitting? Or does pizza itself actually cause heartburn?

Why Does Pizza Give Me Heartburn?

Most often than not, pizza is loaded with high-fat, acidic ingredients. Cheese, tomato sauce, and pepperoni are extremely acidic and high in fat and sodium. All of these nutrients aren’t a great combo for people with sensitive stomachs.

Eating pizza can also fill up your stomach relatively quickly, slowing down digestion. This can lead to indigestion, stomach issues, heartburn as well as other acid reflux symptoms. So, while you don’t necessarily have to avoid pizza altogether, try to limit it.

Don’t know what to drink? We made a list of more than 20 most and least acidic juices and 20+ alcoholic drinks ranked by acidity levels.

Is pizza acidic?

Why Does Pizza Give Me Heartburn?
Why Does Pizza Give Me Heartburn?

It’s hard to determine the exact pH level of pizza, as every single kind of pizza contains different ingredients in different amounts. Unfortunately, it’s always acidic. 

Almost all pizza has a base covered with tomato sauce, which has a pH level of around 3.50-4.70

It’s also very acidic and high in sodium, which is bad for your digestive system. Cheese is also acid-forming, and it’s often the next ingredient on your favorite pizza.

The rest of the most common pizza toppings are also rather acidic, such as pepperoni, onions, olives, meat, and pineapple. 

While there are ways to make your pizza as low in acidic ingredients as possible, it will generally still have some heartburn-inducing properties.

How does pizza cause heartburn?

The most acidic ingredient in pizza is tomato sauce. It’s very acid-forming and is found in almost all types of pizza. 

Tomato paste and sauce also contain a lot of sodium, which leads to irritation and inflammation in your esophagus and stomach. 

Because of that, consuming too much tomato paste can cause heartburn and other symptoms. 

How does pizza cause heartburn?
How does pizza cause heartburn?

So, try avoiding consuming too many foods containing this ingredient, particularly if you’re prone to heartburn.

In addition, a single slice of pizza can contain as many as 400 calories. It also tends to be loaded with fat and carbohydrates, which are hard for your stomach to digest. 

When you eat hard-to-digest foods, your stomach produces more gastric acid, which can rise up your esophagus, causing heartburn.

Pizza can also contain a lot of sugar from all the toppings you put on it. Sugar is a hard nutrient to digest, and it also leads to inflammation. 

While some inflammation can help your body fight against infections, chronic inflammation causes a lot of issues, including indigestion.

Because of that, pizza is generally a very heartburn-inducing food. If your stomach is sensitive and you get heartburn a lot, try avoiding consuming pizza too often.

Is pizza good for you?

Although pizza is high in calories and fat, it can be a part of a healthy diet as long as you prepare it in a healthy way and consume it in moderation. 

To do that, avoid adding too many toppings and stick to fresh veggies and herbs like basil.

If you do that, you can safely include pizza in your diet without compromising your health or worsening your acid reflux.

Is pizza good for you?
Is pizza good for you?

What’s more, if you use ingredients like olive oil, fresh tomatoes, and fresh cheese, you can also get a lot of micronutrients, including vitamin D, vitamin C, magnesium, calcium, and many more. 

You can also add a healthy protein like grilled chicken or shrimp, which can help you stay fuller after eating.

If you have to option, try choosing a whole-grain pizza base. This will help you get more fiber from your meal, increasing the feeling of fullness and curbing your appetite. 

Fiber can also soak up excess stomach acid, which is beneficial for people struggling with acid reflux.

One of the downsides is that if you eat store-bought frozen pizza, you’re more likely to gain weight over time. 

Studies show that people who regularly consume ready-made products are more prone to weight gain and diabetes. 

Because of that, if you choose to have pizza, try making it yourself or get it from a reputable restaurant that uses high-quality ingredients.

Should you eat pizza on acid reflux?

Should you eat pizza on acid reflux?
Should you eat pizza on acid reflux?

Even though pizza is an acidic food, you don’t have to completely eliminate it from your diet. Instead, try altering your pizza a little bit, replacing the most acidic ingredients with some less acidic ones.

For example, some people benefit from using bell pepper paste instead of tomato paste. It’s not only less acidic but also lower in sodium and other preservatives. 

What’s more, it still has a similar taste and can help you load up on more vitamins and minerals.

Another thing you can do is to switch to white cheese like mozzarella. This kind of cheese is less acidic than the ones commonly used on pizzas. 

Also, make sure to avoid bacon and fried ham on your pizza, as these are bad for heartburn as well as your health.

Is vegan pizza better for acid reflux?

Vegan pizza might be slightly better for people suffering from acid reflux, as it doesn’t contain meat, which is very acid-forming. 

Unfortunately, it’s still rather acidic since it contains tomato paste, cheese, and other acidic ingredients.

To make your vegan pizza as easy for your stomach to digest as possible, try adding very little cheese and opt for fresh veggies. Some of the best toppings include spinach, arugula, fresh tomatoes, and basil.

Conclusion

Pizza is a rather acidic foods thanks to the ingredients and toppings it contains. It’s also high in fat and calories, which increases your risk of heartburn and other acid reflux symptoms, especially if you eat a lot of it.

On the bright side, there are some ingredients and ways you can make your pizza healthier and easier for your stomach. 

So, try choosing fresh ingredients, especially veggies, and avoid putting on too much cheese and tomato sauce.

Don’t know what to drink? We made a list of more than 20 most and least acidic juices and 20+ alcoholic drinks ranked by acidity levels.

Sources: Nutrition Data, FDA, National Library of Medicine, PMC