Fried Chicken > Can fried chicken cause acid reflux

Can Fried Chicken Cause Acid Reflux?

Fried foods like fried chicken are notorious for causing gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), more commonly known as acid reflux. The high fat content of fried chicken can trigger acid reflux in a number of ways.

Can fried chicken cause acid reflux?

Fried chicken is one of the worst foods for contributing to acid reflux symptoms in those prone to gastrointestinal issues. The copious amounts of fat and oil used in the cooking process cause multiple problems that promote acid reflux.

First, all that fat leads fried chicken to linger in the stomach longer than other foods, causing feelings of indigestion. The stomach distends with the fatty meal, putting pressure on the lower esophageal sphincter and forcing it open.

Second, the grease in fried chicken actively relaxes this important barrier muscle between the esophagus and stomach. Once relaxed, the sphincter cannot prevent stomach acid from washing back up into the esophagus. This reflux of gastric acid is what causes the burning chest pain of acid reflux.

Lastly, components of the seasoning batter like buttermilk, black pepper, and hot spices also irritate the esophageal lining. This provokes increased acid production. The combination of fat, pressure, and irritation provided by fried chicken is the perfect recipe for frequent acid reflux.

While an occasional fried chicken dinner may be tolerated by some reflux sufferers, regular consumption is likely to trigger painful symptoms. To reduce the likelihood of acid reflux, those with gastrointestinal issues should emphasize leaner, less acidic cooking methods for chicken and other meats. By limiting reflux triggers like fried foods, acid reflux can be better controlled.

Why Does Fried Chicken Aggravate Acid Reflux?

There are a few reasons why indulging in foods like fried chicken, french fries, onion rings, and other fried fare may bring on symptoms of acid reflux:

    • High Fat Content – Fried foods are loaded with fat, especially saturated fat. High fat meals take longer to digest, meaning food sits in the stomach longer. This can cause the stomach to become distended, pushing up against the lower esophageal sphincter (the muscle that acts as a barrier between the esophagus and stomach) and causing it to relax and allow acidic stomach contents back up into the esophagus.
    • Irritating Spices – Fried chicken is often seasoned with spices that can further irritate the esophagus. Black pepper, cayenne, salt, and other spices commonly used on fried chicken can provoke acid reflux symptoms.
    • Buttermilk Batter – Traditional fried chicken is soaked in buttermilk before breading and frying. The lactic acid in buttermilk lowers the pH level of the chicken, making it more acidic. Eating acidic foods like buttermilk-soaked chicken can promote acid reflux.
    • Crunchy Breading – The breading on fried chicken provides texture, but it can also exacerbate acid reflux. The crunchy coating takes longer to break down, so the food sits in the stomach longer. The breading is also abrasive, which can scratch and irritate the esophageal lining.

 Related post: Can fried chicken be reheated in an air Fryer? 

Fried Chicken and Other Reflux Trigger Foods

In addition to fried chicken, other foods notorious for triggering acid reflux symptoms include:

    • Fatty red meats like bacon, sausage, and pepperoni pizza
    • Rich, creamy foods like fettuccine alfredo or mac and cheese
    • Tomato-based products such as pasta sauce, salsa, and marinara
    • Citrus fruits, juices, and vinegars
    • Onions, garlic, and spicy chile peppers
    • Chocolate, regular and decaf coffee, teas, and soda
    • Alcohol, especially red wine


If you suffer from chronic acid reflux, it’s best to avoid these aggravating foods as much as possible. Occasional indulgences shouldn’t cause serious harm, but habitually eating fried fare and other common reflux triggers can promote GERD over time.

Healthier Alternatives to Fried Chicken

Although fried chicken might be off the table, you can still eat chicken in moderation with acid reflux. The key is choosing the right preparation methods. Healthier ways to enjoy chicken and avoid reflux include:

    • Grilling or roasting chicken without the skin to cut down on fat. Skip buttermilk soak.
    • Poaching or preparing chicken in a slow cooker with low-acid ingredients like broth, mild herbs and veggies.
    • Lightly sautéing chicken breasts in a small amount of olive oil and seasoning with just a pinch of garlic and black pepper.
    • Preparing chicken soup with a low-sodium broth and chicken breast, paired with low-acid vegetables like carrots, spinach, and broccoli. Skip heavy cream.
    • Using chicken as a lean protein topping for acid-friendly salads with ingredients like greens, cucumbers, avocado and vinaigrette.


With mindful preparation methods and careful pairings, those with acid reflux don’t have to avoid chicken entirely. An occasional fried chicken indulgence won’t cause major issues in most cases either, as long as it’s not a regular habit.

In summary, the high fat content and irritating spices in fried chicken make it prone to causing bothersome indigestion as well as heartburn in those with acid reflux. Limiting intake of fried foods and opting for healthier preparations like grilled chicken can help prevent these symptoms.

Can fried chicken cause indigestion?

Yes, fried chicken is notorious for causing indigestion in those prone to acid reflux. The high fat content of the fried coating delays stomach emptying, leading to bloating, nausea, and abdominal pain. Greasy fried chicken sits heavy in the stomach, overloading the digestive system and making it difficult to fully break down and process the food. This sluggish digestion causes the unpleasant symptoms of indigestion.

Can fried chicken cause heartburn?

Fried chicken is a common trigger for heartburn as well. The abundant fat in the fried crust relaxes the lower esophageal sphincter, allowing acidic stomach contents to wash back up into the esophagus. This backflow of gastric acid causes the burning chest pain known as heartburn. Spices like black pepper and cayenne used in the seasoning of fried chicken can further inflame the esophageal lining.

Why is fried chicken hard to digest?

The high fat and oil content of fried chicken makes it harder to digest. Fatty foods take longer to move through the digestive tract. The coating and spices also complicate digestion.

Is fried chicken worse for reflux than grilled chicken?

Yes, fried chicken tends to be worse for reflux. Frying adds more fat, oil, and irritating spices. Grilled chicken is lower in fat and easier to digest.

Can fried chicken give you heartburn?

Yes, fried chicken can frequently give people with acid reflux issues heartburn. The high fat content softens the esophageal sphincter, permitting stomach acid to reflux into the esophagus and cause a burning sensation. The peppery spices common in fried chicken batter are also known to provoke heartburn.

Can I eat fried chicken if I take antacids?

Antacids like Tums can help temporarily neutralize stomach acid after eating trigger foods. However, fried chicken can still relax the esophageal sphincter and won’t prevent reflux symptoms from occurring in the first place.

Are chicken nuggets and tenders better than fried chicken?

Not necessarily – chicken nuggets and tenders are still deep fried foods. They may contain slightly less fat if made with white meat, but the breading and frying method makes them no better for reflux.

Does fried chicken cause heartburn?

There is a direct correlation between eating fried chicken and experiencing heartburn, especially for those with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Fried chicken contains large amounts of fat and oil that relax the esophageal sphincter, allowing acidic stomach contents to surge up into the esophagus. This backflow causes the trademark burning feeling of heartburn. The acidic components in fried chicken batter like buttermilk worsen this effect.

What cooking methods are best for chicken with reflux?

Healthiest cooking methods for reflux include roasting, baking, grilling, poaching, sautéing, or preparing chicken in a slow cooker. Avoid frying or preparing with heavy, creamy sauces.


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