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Why Does Oatmeal Give Me Heartburn? (Safe to Eat?)

Often referred to as one of nature’s superfoods, oats are 100% wholegrain and rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber. They are also often the only ingredient in oatmeal.

Oatmeal is oats that are cut thin so that they can be conveniently cooked in just a few minutes. Another nutrient-packed choice, yes, so how is it that oatmeal can give you heartburn?

Why does oatmeal give me heartburn?

Oatmeal definitely has the potential to cause heartburn in some people. Its relative acidity, or pH level, is the major contributing factor as to why oatmeal causes heartburn. Other acidic additives to your oatmeal and some underlying health conditions are also factors in why oatmeal can cause a burning in your chest, Let’s investigate further.

What is the pH of oatmeal?

Oatmeal, which is essentially cooked oats, has a pH level of between 6.2 to 6.6. This places it in the acidic range but only slightly so.

By comparison, water, which scores a perfectly neutral pH level, sits at a pH of 7. Any food item with a pH less than water is considered acidic while those with a pH exceeding 7 are classed as alkaline.

Is oatmeal acidic or alkaline?

Oatmeal sits within the acidic range of food products which is also a basic answer as to why it may cause you heartburn.

Acid-forming foods can upset the digestive tract by loosening the muscles intended to keep the acids in the stomach and instead allowing them to travel the wrong way into the esophagus and mouth.

Alkaline foods by contrast help to regulate the Ph levels in the body and generally have a soothing effect on digestive function.

The extent to which the oatmeal you consume is acidic or alkaline will also depend upon what you accompany it with.

Is oatmeal bad for acid reflux?

Oatmeal With Ripe Berries
Oatmeal With Ripe Berries

Oatmeal’s level of acidity means it can cause acid reflux in some people. Acid reflux is the term given to the heartburn, acidic taste, and discomfort you feel when acids that were meant to remain in the stomach make their way back up the wrong way and into the esophagus and throat.

The uncomfortable burning sensation you feel in your chest that accompanies acid reflux is often worsened by lying down or bending over.

If oatmeal causes you acid reflux, some strategies to try and avoid this are to make your oatmeal less acidic with the addition of alkalizing foods, to eat moderate portions and never overeat, and of course to avoid it altogether.

How do you make oatmeal less acidic?

It’s virtually impossible, and not necessary, to eat a one hundred percent alkaline diet. In fact, many nutritionists recommend an 80/20 split to be a great ratio for optimal health.

This means that 80% of what you consume should be alkaline and 20% can be mildly acidic. As oatmeal is an acidic choice you’ll want to add some alkaline ingredients to balance out the overall pH level.

Is oatmeal acidic or alkaline?
Is oatmeal acidic or alkaline?

Oatmeal is often consumed as a breakfast dish and as such is commonly accompanied by fruit.

While many fruits, and dried fruits especially, are highly acidic, there are some that are more alkalizing. Choose apricots, apples, kiwis, pineapples, persimmons, nectarines, grapefruits, and watermelons, as these are all good alkaline fruits.

Nuts are another nutrient-rich alkaline addition to your oatmeal, although be aware of their potential to cause heartburn in some people. Steer clear of adding any artificial sweeteners or unnecessary fats to your oatmeal as these will likely increase its acidity and create a further gastrointestinal disturbance.

Why do oats bloat me?

Some people may experience a bloated feeling in their belly when they eat oats. There are several possible reasons why this may occur. Firstly, you may have a sensitivity to gluten.

Why do oats bloat me?
Why do oats bloat me?

Although oats themselves are gluten-free they are often grown and processed around wheat, barley, or rye, thus contaminating them with gluten.

If you’re gluten intolerant, make sure to buy oats that are labeled gluten-free. A second reason you may feel bloated after eating oats is their high soluble fiber content.

Fiber is an important part of any diet as it helps regulate cholesterol and glucose levels in the body. However, the fiber present in oats can also cause bloating, gas, and even stomach cramps.

This is especially true for people who suddenly introduce a lot of fiber into their bodies. Increase your fiber intake in a gentle and gradual way to limit your chances of bloating or other gastrointestinal irritations.

Are oats inflammatory?

Oats are both a healthy grain lauded for their nutritional value and generally a relatively non-inflammatory food. Anti-inflammatory foods can be thought of as those that have a calming effect on the body while inflammatory foods can cause dis-ease and eventually disease. 

Studies promote the benefits of a diet that limits inflammatory foods such as refined carbohydrates.

Although oats are a carbohydrate they are most usually a whole grain and not refined, thus not inflaming the body in the way that other refined carbohydrates and sugars can.

Oat Flakes
Oat Flakes

However, if you have an intolerance to gluten or a condition such as irritable bowel syndrome or celiac disease, then oats may indeed be inflammatory towards your system.

Are overnight oats alkaline?

Overnight oats have been soaked in liquid, usually a type of milk or yogurt. Most overnight oats recipes incorporate the addition of fruits, nuts or nut butter, seeds, cacao, or even chocolate. Tasty, definitely, but often not a very alkaline meal choice.

Overnight oats are high in carbohydrates and can also be high in sugars and fats, all steering them towards the acidic end of the food spectrum.

Why does granola give me heartburn?

Granola is another breakfast favorite with recipes that often include toasted oats combined with other ingredients.

If you experience heartburn after consuming granola but tend to tolerate oatmeal well, then it’s likely to be the other ingredients that are the culprits.

Granolas are often high in sugars, be they natural sugars such as those present in dried fruit, or other artificial sweeteners.

Why does granola give me heartburn?
Why does granola give me heartburn?

There are even brands of granola claiming to be health foods that are in fact packed with hidden sugars and fats, both contributing factors to heartburn.

Select granola that’s not only as close to nature as possible but also one that doesn’t include too many acidic ingredients.

Making your own granola is an excellent method to control the pH levels a little more and minimize its heartburn potential.

There are lots of great reasons to incorporate oatmeal and other oat recipes into your diet. If you find yourself experiencing heartburn after eating oatmeal it may be time to experiment with making your oatmeal more alkaline, exercising better portion control, reducing your oat intake, or swapping them out altogether.

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.