Food is the most common heartburn trigger. Symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux (GERD) are likely to occur after large meals. This is because of the increased volume of stomach acid and other fluids putting pressure on the lower sphincter of the esophagus. GERD occurs when this sphincter muscle does not work properly.
Different foods can have different effects on individuals with GERD. Some can worsen acid reflux, while others can ameliorate symptoms.
In this article, we’ll explore foods you should avoid and foods you should eat if you have acid reflux.
What Foods to Avoid with GERD?
There is a long list of foods you should avoid if you suffer from GERD. While it may seem like a great sacrifice, it doesn’t have to be! Remember, decreasing these foods will make you feel better.
Some of the most common acidic foods to avoid if you have GERD include:
- Orange juice
- Tomato juice
- Spicy food
These acidic foods tend to irritate the esophagus and raise stomach acid. Therefore, they increase the risk of acid reflux and indigestion.
Chocolate and coffee also contain the compound methylxanthine. This relaxes the lower esophageal sphincter, making it more likely for stomach acid to flow backward into the esophagus. It then irritates the esophagus and leads to acid reflux.
Among spices, chili pepper triggers heartburn in some people. The key active ingredient capsaicin seems to be the culprit.
Several studies link carbonated beverages with acid reflux. The acidity and carbonation raise the amount of stomach acid and reduce the pH in the esophagus. This then causes symptoms of GERD.
In addition, many carbonated drinks contain excessive amounts of sugar. Soda consumption is clearly connected with weight gain. Being overweight further increases the risk of acid reflux and can worsen symptoms.
Fatty foods take a longer time to digest and sit in the stomach. In response to this type of food, the stomach makes more acid. This further irritates the digestive tract and relaxes the lower esophageal sphincter.
Simple dietary changes can decrease the amount of fried, fatty foods. Not only do these foods aggravate GERD, but they promote obesity and increase the risk of heart diseases and cancer. Instead of eating fast food french fries and hamburgers, opt for baked sweet potatoes and homemade chicken or turkey burgers.
Cow’s milk can worsen acid reflux, especially in children. Many adults are also sensitive to cow’s dairy, which can irritate the digestive tract.
In addition to GERD, cow’s milk can cause other digestive problems including bloating, diarrhea, fatigue, and skin rashes.
Researchers believe an intolerance to lactose, the sugar milk, causes digestive symptoms. However, the milk protein A1 is emerging as a key player as well. While there are many plant-based alternatives, some people choose goat, sheep, and buffalo dairy without a problem.
In many cases, alcohol can worsen acid reflux. Alcohol is acidic and relaxes the lower esophageal sphincter, causing symptoms. Acetaldehyde, a byproduct of alcohol metabolism, causes irritate of the esophagus too. Alcohol further leads to direct damage of the stomach lining when consumed in excess.
Carbonated alcoholic drinks contain extra sugar, which can irritate the esophagus even more.
It’s a good idea to eliminate junk food, soda, and other processed foods from your diet. However, don’t avoid healthy foods that may trigger acid reflux like chocolate or citrus foods.
The American College of Gastroenterology suggests it is not about avoiding healthy foods. Instead, treat GERD and heal the digestive tract so you can tolerate any food.
It is important to be aware that some foods can act as triggers. Keeping a food journal can be helpful in determining which foods are triggers. You may only react to some of the foods listed in this article and not others.
What Foods Relieve GERD?
Some research studies evaluated foods that could potentially reduce the frequency of GERD. One study based on 500 participants found that high-protein, low-cholesterol foods can help. These foods include salmon, poultry, almonds, and beans.
Likewise, fruits and vegetables can be protective of the digestive tract. Foods to add to your diet include:
- Brussel sprouts
Not only are they rich in fiber, but also nutrients like magnesium, Vitamin C, and potassium.
Soluble fibers seem to be particularly helpful. Foods such as oats, grains, beans, sweet potatoes, figs, zucchini, and carrots contain these fibers.
There are multiple ways to improve and manage symptoms of GERD. These include:
- Including foods that improve GERD into your diet
- Reducing foods that trigger GERD flare-ups
- Losing weight
- Avoid eating four hours before bedtime
- Eat smaller meals
Not everyone reacts to the same foods. Some may experience symptoms with food that are not on our list. It is best to seek professional advice for an individualized dietary plan.
You can also talk to your doctor if medications are a trigger instead of food. Along with watching what you eat, over-the-counter drugs or supplements can also help manage GERD.