Gastroesophageal reflux disease is common and uncomfortable, but a GERD or acid reflux diet can help control symptoms.
GERD happens when acid flows back into the tube connecting your mouth and stomach. The acid reflux can be very irritating for the esophagus. It is believed that in the United States, about 20 percent of the population suffers from GERD.
Certain foods, which increase the amount of acid in the stomach, can lead to acid reflux and symptoms of GERD. Common food agitators include spicy and high-fat foods. There are also some foods that are good to eat if you suffer from GERD.
Foods to Eat in Acid Reflux Diet
Acid reflux occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter becomes weak or damaged. While the sphincter usually closes to stop food in the stomach from moving into the esophagus, this doesn’t happen in those who suffer from severe acid reflux. A GERD diet can help people cope with this.
If you have been diagnosed with GERD, you should discuss an acid reflux diet with your doctor. Here are some foods that are typically included in a GERD diet.
- Vegetables – this is one of the best GERD diet foods to eat because vegetables are low in fat and sugar and can help lower stomach acid. Green beans, asparagus, leafy greens, and cucumbers are good options.
- Ginger – a GERD diet plan can include ginger since it has natural anti-inflammatory abilities. Ginger has long been considered a natural treatment for heartburn, as well as other gastrointestinal problems.
- Oatmeal – this well-known breakfast food can absorb acid and reduce reflux. Whole grain bread, which like oatmeal contain fiber, can also be included in a GERD diet food list.
- Non-citrus fruits – research shows that non-citrus fruits, such as melons, bananas, apples, and pears are less likely to activate symptoms of reflux in the way acidic fruits will.
- Lean meats – chicken, turkey, and fish are low-fat foods that can help reduce acid reflux.
- Egg whites – while egg yolks are high in fat and can trigger acid reflux, egg whites are a better option.
- Healthy fats – an acid reflux diet can include healthy fats like avocados, walnuts, flaxseed, olive oil, sunflower oil, and sesame oil. Reducing saturated fats and trans fats and replacing them with unsaturated fats is a good idea for many reasons, not just to prevent GERD.
- Baked goods – some baked goods are high in fat and should be avoided. For instance, croissants and doughnuts are high-fat foods. You can enjoy pancakes, waffles, bagels, or low-fat muffins if you suffer from GERD.
- Milk products – reduced-fat, low fat, or fat-free milk, yogurt, and cheese are safer for those who have acid reflux. Also, non-dairy alternatives like almond milk or soymilk are okay.
- Soups – lean broth soups or soups made with lean ingredients, such as fat-free milk don’t seem to trigger GERD symptoms the way other soups, such as creamy or tomato soups do.
- Potatoes – baked, boiled or mashed potatoes, as well as plain pasta or rice don’t seem to trigger acid reflux.
- Desserts – fruit-based desserts, marshmallows, gelatin desserts, and angel food cake are good sweet options for those suffering from GERD.
- Snacks – low-fat hummus, vegetables, and sliced fruits are good snacks if you want to keep acid reflux at bay.
Foods to Avoid in GERD Diet
Each person may have different triggers for acid reflux; however, there are certain foods that have a tendency to aggravate those who suffer from GERD. To help control symptoms, you can start eliminating foods one-by-one.
The following are GERD diet foods to avoid:
- High-fat foods – fried or fatty foods can relax the lower esophagus, leading to acid backing up. French fries, full-fat dairy, fried beef or pork, ice cream, potato chips, cream sauces or creamy salad dressings, as well as oily foods can trigger GERD symptoms.
- Tomatoes and Citrus – some fruits can make GERD worse, including acidic fruits. People who are diagnosed with acid reflux should avoid foods such as oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruit, pineapple, tomatoes, tomato sauce, and salsa.
- Chocolate – an ingredient in chocolate called methylxanthine is said to relax the lower esophagus and increase acid reflux.
- Garlic, onions, and spicy foods – tangy or spicy foods are a common trigger for heartburn or acid reflux. Some people find just cutting down on the number of onions or the number of spicy foods in their diet can be helpful as opposed to eliminating them from the diet.
- Caffeine – some people complain about their acid reflux symptoms right after consuming their morning coffee. Remember, there are also foods that contain caffeine. Baked goods, chocolate, pudding, ice cream and a host of other foods can include caffeine.
- Mint – mint is a popular flavor in gums and candies but it has been known to trigger acid reflux in some people.
- Alcohol – this tends to be a common trigger in many people. While doctors generally recommend “moderation” when it comes to drinking alcohol, people with acid reflux may have to lower consumption or eliminate alcohol altogether.
- Carbonated beverages – sodas, as well as some juices and waters are carbonated. They can trigger symptoms of acid reflux because they put pressure on the stomach, making it easier for acid to push through the lower esophagus. Many carbonated drinks also contain caffeine.
- Processed meats – luncheon meats and hot dogs seem to be problematic for many people who suffer from GERD.
Sample Menu for GERD Diet
So now you have a sense of what might trigger acid reflux or GERD symptoms, but it can be hard to wrap your head around how to incorporate diet changes into your daily routine. Let’s take a look at what many people think of as the most important meal of the day (breakfast) and try to give you some idea of how to approach menu.
You should avoid the following when planning breakfast:
- Sausage and bacon
- Omelets, eggs, or hash browns fried in butter or oil
- Pastries, such as croissants and doughnuts
- Juices, such as orange, grapefruit, or tomato
- Coffee or anything with cocoa
You can still enjoy a breakfast that is full of variety and that is acid reflux friendly. The following are sample breakfast menus:
- Breakfast #1 – 1 cup of hot oatmeal cereal, 8 ounces of skim milk, ½ cup of papaya slices, 2 slices whole-wheat bread, and 1-tablespoon margarine.
- Breakfast #2 – 1 English muffin, 1-tablespoon margarine, 8 ounces of skim milk and ½ cup sliced peaches.
- Breakfast #3 – 1 ½ cups puffed wheat cereal, 8 ounces skim milk, 2 slices of whole wheat toast, 1 tablespoon margarine, 1 small banana
- Breakfast #4 – 1 cup of bran flakes cereal, 8 ounces skim milk, 1 English muffin, 1-tablespoon margarine, and 1 cup of fresh or frozen strawberries.
Many people who have acid reflux find that having smaller meals, instead of a larger amount of food can help keep symptoms under control.
Aside from foods, there are other lifestyle adjustments you can consider if acid reflux is a problem. For example, you should avoid going to bed on a full stomach. Eating meals two to three hours before lying down can allow food to digest and lower acid levels. It is also important to control portions. Overeating can trigger GERD symptoms. Many gastroenterologists also tell their patients struggling with acid reflux to eat slowly.
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