Gastroesophageal reflux disease, also called GERD or acid reflux, is a common problem affecting up to one-third of the U.S. population. An estimated one out of five people with GERD experience heartburn or acid regurgitation every week and two out of five experience heartburn or acid regurgitation at least once a month.
The foods we eat can exacerbate GERD symptoms. Acidic and fatty foods can trigger symptoms either by relaxing the lower esophageal sphincter (valve) or by slowing the stomach from emptying and causing increased backflow of stomach contents into the esophagus. In the same way that highly acidic foods can trigger GERD symptoms, consuming alkaline-heavy foods can improve the balance of your diet and soothe symptoms. These can include bananas, cauliflower and various melons. Managing your diet and weight is the first line treatment for GERD.
GERD Diet Plan
Foods That Cause Acid Reflux
Foods that can cause acid reflux include:
Processed foods are known to increase symptoms of GERD and delay digestion, since they are often more difficult for your body to digest. You can detect which foods are processed by looking at the ingredient list: anything with artificial food colors, artificial sweeteners, MSG, or high-fructose corn syrup are often highly processed. Examples of highly-processed foods include:
- Sugary cereal
- Fast food
- Frozen desserts
Fatty meats (e.g., bacon and sausage)
Foods that have concentrated amount of fat can induce reflux symptoms. These can include fatty meats like bacon and sausage or any heavily fried foods. The high amount of fat in these foods can slow emptying from your stomach, leading to stomach acid backing up into the esophagus after consumption.
Dairy products can trigger reflux symptoms in some more advanced cases of GERD, most notably milk, cheese and butter. The high amount of fat in addition to the lactose found in dairy can affect your stomach emptying in a way that triggers stomach acid backup.
Chili powder and peppers (e.g., white, black, cayenne)
Chili powder and peppers can be especially spicy in concentrated doses, and often trigger symptoms of heartburn after eating.
It is important to limit consumption of any acidic foods, many of the items in this list included. Tomato and tomato-based sauces are highly acidic, especially in common foods like pizza and pasta.
Consuming chocolate can trigger symptoms of heartburn and reflux. This is mostly due to the ingredient methylxanthine, but cocoa powder is also highly acidic, along with caffeine that is often found in chocolate.
Citrus fruit are highly acidic, which can lead to an imbalance in your diet that triggers GERD symptoms. These can include lemons, pineapples, grapefruit, and oranges. While these are all healthy options and important to a regular diet, people with GERD need to monitor how much citrus they consume.
Mint is known to trigger heartburn symptoms as well as indigestion. This can include peppermint, but foods like breath mints and chewing gum can have similar effects.
Carbonated beverages of any kind should be avoided to help limit GERD symptoms. The carbonation can trigger acid backup into your throat, inducing or harshening reflux symptoms. Drinks like soda, beer and seltzers should be avoided.
Foods That Prevent Acid Reflux
The following foods can help prevent acid reflux:
The balance between acidic foods and alkaline foods is crucial to avoiding symptoms of GERD. While limiting consumptions of highly acidic foods like citrus and tomatoes, aim to consume more alkaline foods like bananas, melons and cauliflower.
Many foods that are high in fiber have been shown to lower the risk of GERD and limit the effects of symptoms. These can include:
- Whole grains
- Root vegetables
- Green vegetables
- Whole grains (bread and rice)
Water-based foods have been shown to limit symptoms of GERD, with the caveat that they must also be low in acidity. These can include celery, cucumber and lettuce.
Non-fat milk and low-fat yogurt
These foods act as a temporary buffer between the stomach lining and stomach acid. Low-fat yogurt also provides probiotics, which help keep a healthy balance between good and harmful bacteria. Although probiotics don’t directly treat acid reflux, their ability to balance good and harmful bacteria prevents an underlying issue that can cause acid reflux. If the gut lacks healthy bacteria, it takes longer to break down food. Thus, the undigested food in the gut can start to ferment and cause gas which pushes stomach acid into the esophagus.
Ginger has alkaline and anti-inflammation properties that also ease the digestive tract.
Lean meat is a great substitute for some of the fattier meats listed above. These can include chicken, turkey and seafood.
Additional Dietary and Lifestyle Changes
There are other dietary and lifestyle changes you can make to treat GERD symptoms:
- Stop smoking and chewing tobacco
- Lose weight if overweight
- Don’t overeat
- Do not chew gum or suck on hard candy because swallowing air causes acid production
Make an Appointment With a GERD Expert
Make an appointment with a Cooper specialist if you have GERD and are still experiencing acid reflux more than twice a week after making dietary changes,
To make an appointment with one of our experts in treating gastroesophageal reflux disease, please call 800.8.COOPER (800.826.6737).