When it comes to acid reflux, what you eat can either trigger an episode, worsen your symptoms, or help relieve your symptoms. Acid reflux, also known as gastroesophageal reflux (GER), occurs when stomach contents flow back up into your esophagus.
This acid backflow can lead to various symptoms, including heartburn and nausea. And frequent episodes can lead to gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), which is a more severe form of acid reflux.
So what should or shouldn’t you eat for GER or GERD?
Diet and Nutrition for GERD
GERD affects an estimated 20% of the United States population. Following a GER or GERD diagnosis, your doctor will likely first recommend lifestyle changes, over-the-counter medications, or a combination of approaches.
If these don’t offer relief after a few weeks, your doctor may recommend prescription medication or surgery.
GER or GERD treatment involving diet changes often begins with avoiding the foods and beverages that trigger or exacerbate your symptoms.
However, triggers don’t affect everyone in the same way. When you eat and how you eat is just as important as what you eat.
For instance, eating a particular food known to cause acid reflux 3 to 4 hours before bed may be harmless. Whereas, going to bed within 3 to 4 hours of eating non-trigger foods could cause acid reflux.
Nutrition-wise, eating healthy should always be your goal. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015 – 2020 (EIGHTH EDITION) states that a healthy eating pattern includes:
- Vegetables, such as dark-green, red and orange, beans and peas, starchy, and other vegetables
- Fruits, with emphasis on whole fruits
- Grains, where at least half are whole grain
- Fat-free or low-fat dairy products (e.g., milk, cheese, and yogurt) and or fortified soy beverages
- Proteins, such as lean meats, poultry, seafood, eggs, legumes, nuts, seeds, and soy products
The guidelines call for limited saturated fats, trans fats, added sugars, and sodium in your diet plan. And recommend that your eating plan “accounts for all foods and beverages within an appropriate calorie level.”
Foods That May Help Reduce Your Acid Reflux (GER) or GERD Symptoms
There’s no such thing as a “GERD diet ” or acid reflux meal plan; you only need to eat right to ease or prevent acid reflux symptoms. And this doesn’t have to mean steering clear of all your favorite foods (e.g., chocolate).
A few dietary modifications should often be enough it will help neutralize the stomach acid. What foods are good for acid reflux? or what foods help acid reflux go away?
Here is list of foods to eat with acid reflux to reduce your symptoms:
Choose from various vegetables, including potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, spinach, broccoli, kales, asparagus, cucumbers, green beans, beans, and peas. They help with your symptoms as they are naturally low in fat and sugar and help lessen stomach acid.
2. Non-Citrus Fruits
Fruits such as bananas, melons, apples, and pears are alkaline and can help neutralize stomach acid.
3. Lean proteins
These include lean meats (e.g., beef, lamb, pork, and veal), poultry (e.g., chicken, turkey, and duck), fish, seafood, and egg whites.
These proteins are low-fat hence less likely to cause acid reflux. Have them grilled, baked, broiled, or poached as fried foods increase your risk of acid reflux and heartburn.
4. Complex carbohydrates
From whole grains (e.g., oatmeal, brown rice, and couscous) to root vegetables (e.g., potatoes, yams, parsnips, carrots, and sweet potatoes).
These foods are rich sources of fiber hence aid in digestion and make you feel full faster, ensuring you don’t overeat, which would make regurgitation more likely.
5. Healthier fats
Sources include avocados, peanuts, walnuts, soybeans, tofu, sesame oil, olive oil, safflower oil, salmon, tuna, and trout.
Including such unsaturated fats in your diet helps you avoid saturated and trans fats, which reduce the pressure in your esophageal sphincter and promote reflux.
Common Triggers for People With Reflux
Various factors can cause acid reflux and, eventually, GERD. With regards to food and beverages, here are common triggers for reflux and heartburn. This are acid reflux foods and drinks to avoid.
- Fatty or fried foods. These include french fries, fatty/fried cuts of red meat, deep-fried onion rings, ice cream, potato chips, whole milk, regular cheese, cream sauces, dips, or gravies, and creamy salad dressings.
- Spicy foods. Foods with a kick such as peppery foods, hot sauces, onions, and garlic may trigger heartburn and acid reflux in some people.
- High-acid foods. Tomatoes, tomato sauces, tomato juices, citrus fruits (e.g., oranges, limes, and lemons), citrus juices, and pineapples can trigger or aggravate acid reflux symptoms. More so when eaten by themselves on an empty stomach.
- Caffeine. You may notice your heartburn or other acid reflux symptoms flare up after drinking a cup of coffee or tea. Both beverages contain caffeine, which is known to aggravate GER or GERD symptoms.
- Chocolate. It tastes good, yes. But it contains caffeine, cocoa, and theobromine, all of which can trigger or worsen acid reflux by causing your LES to relax.
- Alcohol. The effects of alcohol on your body are numerous and happen to include the relaxation of the LES. So drink wine, beer, vodka, or your choice of alcoholic drink with moderation or quit entirely, depending on how well you tolerate the alcohol.
- Carbonated drinks. The bubbles in fizzy drinks expand in your stomach, which puts increased pressure on your LES and could lead to the reflux of stomach acid. Consider drinking plain water instead of sparkling water.
Other triggers of acid reflux include:
- Smoking. Nicotine can relax and weaken your lower esophageal sphincter, allowing for the backward flow of stomach acid.
- Medications. Various drugs can cause or worsen the symptoms of GER/GERD. These include aspirin, ibuprofen, antihistamines, sedatives, iron supplements, tricyclic antidepressants, bisphosphonates, et cetera. If you start to experience any acid reflux symptoms while on medication, talk to your doctor.
Lifestyle Changes to Help Relieve Acid Reflux
- Eat slowly and eat smaller, more frequent meals to avoid overeating
- Lose weight if you are overweight or obese
- Don’t lie down within three hours of eating, so no naps after lunch, late suppers, or midnight snacks
- Sleep with your head elevated by 6 to 9 inches using block carefully placed under the bedposts supporting the head of your bed
- Wear loose-fitting clothing around your waist to avoid putting extra pressure on your abdomen and LES
- Quit smoking or avoid secondhand smoke if you are a non-smoker
If lifestyle and diet changes don’t help bring your symptoms under control, you can try over-the-counter medications. These include antacids (such as Tums, Maalox, and Rolaids), H-2-receptor blockers, and proton pump inhibitors.
If these prove to be ineffective, prescription medications or surgery may be necessary to help manage your GERD symptoms and prevent complications like Barrett’s esophagus.
Read Next: Home Remedies and Tips to Help Relief and Prevent Acid Reflux/GERD
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