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How to Explain Acid Reflux to Friends (Who Don't Get It)

You’re at dinner with your friends, engaged in your typical lively debate about what appetizer to order for the table.

Right now, it’s a toss-up between the jalapeno poppers and the avocado mozzarella flatbread, and you’ve been designated as the tiebreaker.

Here’s the problem: You forgot to pick up antacids on the way to dinner, so you can’t eat either of those. Well, technically, you could—but you know you’d pay for it.

Now what? Do you pick one of those two options and just make excuses for why you aren’t piling your own plate full? Do you make a quick break to the nearest drugstore so you can eat what you want? Or should you tackle the intimidating task of divulging your medical history to your friends over cocktails?

Let’s face it—explaining your acid reflux to other people can be challenging, and it’s not exactly the most appetizing happy hour topic. The good news is there’s a way you can loop your friends in, without getting into the nitty-gritty details of your wayward stomach acid.

Below are a few phrases you can lean on in a pinch so that you can enjoy your social time out—without being laid up on the couch for days afterward.

1. “I love food, but it doesn’t always love me.”

Anybody who deals with acid reflux knows the heartache (quite literally) associated with needing to be prepared with a pocket full of antacids in order to enjoy the foods that you love. Sure, you’d love to indulge in some onion rings or that citrus salad with reckless abandon. But occasionally your stomach has some different opinions about your diet.

If you’re concerned about coming off as an overly picky eater, a phrase like this one is great to show that your food preferences aren’t a matter of your discerning palate—it’s actually your body that rebels against those menu items.

Plus, this statement will typically get your point across without inspiring tons of continued conversation about your stomach ailments or why you always pop a pill before drinking that wine. Most people aren’t going to press you for more information after you’ve clearly stated that your body doesn’t always tolerate specific types of food.

2. “I’ll spare you the details, but my stomach really can’t handle…”

There’s nothing like some casual chatter about raging heartburn and your lower esophageal sphincter to serve as a tasty teaser to a meal or a social get-together, right? Not exactly.

This is where this phrase comes in handy. Not only does it mean you don’t have to dig into all of the specifics of your acid reflux, but it actually frames this in a way that looks like you’re doing your friends a favor by keeping things vague.

Whatever it is your stomach can’t deal with—whether it’s those spicy nachos, bottomless mimosas, or that high-impact workout class—this statement makes it clear that you have some physical limitations, without requiring that you give everybody a detailed anatomy lesson.

3. “It’s not just an uncomfortable feeling, it’s more like…”

Maybe you’ve tried to keep things somewhat ambiguous, but your friends really aren’t getting the point. Perhaps they keep pushing you to come out for the evening—even though you already mentioned your raging case of heartburn. Or, maybe they keep badgering you to finish your drink, even though you told them that you forgot your antacids.

They seem to think that you’re just dealing with a minor discomfort, rather than something that literally sidelines you for days on end. Well, consider that your permission to take things a step further to really paint an adequate picture of what happens when you make the wrong choices. This is more than a slight nuisance.

Try something like, “It’s not just an uncomfortable feeling, it’s more like a fiery hot burning that extends from my stomach to my throat” or even, “It’s not just a minor discomfort, it’s more like a sharp pain that wakes me up in the middle of the night.”

Rest assured that you definitely don’t need to share all of the ins and outs of your physical symptoms, but finding some more descriptive or relatable terms to illustrate what you deal with can be one of the best ways to help your friends understand the misery you’re in for when you ignore your reflux.


Acid reflux is a pain—especially when you can’t seem to get your friends to understand the severity of your experience.

However, here’s the most important thing to remember: Regardless of whether or not your friends can relate, acid reflux is real and you’re more than justified in making the best choices for you. Because nobody would encourage your pregnant friend to take a tequila shot or your friend with a lactose allergy to get ice cream without a lactaid on hand.

Acid reflux might not be something that’s quite as easily understood or frequently talked about within your social circle, but it’s still not worth days of misery for the sake of not rocking the boat.

So, the next time you aren’t prepared with your trusty antacids, go ahead and suggest an alternative appetizer—or, just order an additional one for the table (that you can actually eat!). After all, it’s not often that people complain about an added shared snack.