Acid reflux is also known as acid regurgitation or gastroesophageal reflux. Acid reflux occurs when contents in your stomach ascend into your esophagus. This primarily occurs when the lower oesophageal sphincter (LES) is weakened or damaged. The LES opens to allow food to go into your stomach and closes to prevent food from going back up.
When your LES malfunctions and food end back in your mouth or esophagus, you have acid reflux. Acid reflux is not uncommon. However, if your acid reflux is persistent (more than two times a week), you may have a condition called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
When you swallow food, a band of muscle in the bottom of your esophagus (lower esophageal sphincter) relaxes to allow food and liquid to enter your stomach. When your food enters your stomach, the sphincter closes again.
If the sphincter relaxes and opens abnormally, your stomach acid can flow back up into your esophagus. This constant backflow of gastric acid irritates the lining of your esophagus, causing inflammation.
GERD’s common symptoms include heartburn, chest pain, bloating, belching, coughing, and trouble swallowing, especially immediately after eating.
What’s more? The food we eat has a significant influence in controlling or triggering acid reflux symptoms. According to research in the United States, about 20% of adults have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). The good news is – By eating the proper diet, you can reduce the symptoms of acid reflux.
In fact, since the foods you eat affect the amount of acid your stomach produces, dieting is the first-line treatment for people with GERD.
Having GERD does not necessarily mean you have to cut off all favorite foods. Although you may have to tweak your diet plan, you can still enjoy your everyday meals while reducing the discomforts of GERD. Ultimately, the goal is to create a GERD diet that consists of a healthy variety of foods that can help you calm acid reflux.
Foods That May Cause Heartburn(Acid Reflux)
If you have GERD, some specific foods can trigger heartburn. The reason is, these foods cause the esophageal sphincter to loosen and hinder the digestive process, allowing the food to stay in the stomach longer. The usual culprits are diets that are high in fat, salt, or spice, such as:
- Fried foods
- Potato chips and other processed snacks
- Fast foods
- Fatty meats such as bacon and sausage
- Chilli powder and pepper (white, black, cayenne)
Other foods that can trigger acid reflux include:
- Tomato-based sauces
- Citrus fruits
- Carbonated beverages
- Coffee and tea
Foods That Help Prevent Acid Reflux
There’s no proven diet that can cure acid reflux. Luckily, there are also various foods that you can eat to prevent and ease symptoms of acid reflux.
If you’re on the hunt for a diet plan that’ll help you reduce symptoms of acid reflux, you might consider stocking your kitchen with these excellent choices.
Fruits aren’t only an excellent source of minerals and vitamins; they are also an invaluable choice for people with GERD.
Fruits are very rich in fiber and low in fat, which could help us prevent acid reflux. Besides, they are very easy to digest. Healthy fruit choices include bananas, avocados, apples, melons, and pears.
Top tip: I recommend you avoid citrus fruits and juices, like oranges and lemons, because they can increase the amount of stomach acid and trigger acid reflux.
Vegetables are another healthy food that prevents acid reflux. Since vegetables have low sugar and fat, they help reduce stomach acid.
Vegetables also pack a truckload of vitamins and minerals and fiber that offers numerous health benefits.
Good vegetable choices for preventing acid reflux include Broccoli, kale, green beans, asparagus, Brussel sprouts, leafy greens, potatoes, cauliflower, and cucumbers.
Top tip: Although various vegetables can help you prevent acid reflux, you should stay away from sauces or toppings that are high in fat, like tomatoes and onions.
Despite their high cholesterol content, eggs can help you prevent acid reflux. However, while egg whites are high in protein and low in fat, egg yolks contain a higher fat content, which can trigger heartburn.
If eggs are triggering your acid reflux, you can stick to the egg whites and avoid egg yolks.
Lean meats are low in fat and help in reducing the risk of reflux. They are also an excellent source of protein, minerals, and vitamins.
Avoid high-fat meat like sausages and burgers and instead, eat lean meats like seafood, skinless poultry, and cuts of beef or pork.
Top tip: You can eat your lean meat grilled, broiled, baked, or poached.
Oatmeal is one of the best sources of healthy complex carbs. It is rich in nutrients and fiber that helps prevent acid reflux. What’s more? You can eat your oatmeal with low-fat milk like almond milk, which will provide additional alkalinity in your stomach and reduce symptoms of acid reflux.
Whole-grain bread is rich in fiber and may prevent acid reflux and lower cholesterol. The types of whole-grain bread that should top your grocery list include oat bread, flax bread, and wheat bread.
Rice and couscous
Rice is a great healthy carb that can help fight off symptoms of acid reflux. If you opt for rice as a part of your GERD diet, I recommend choosing brown rice, which has more fiber.
Potatoes and other root vegetables
Potatoes are also a great source of healthy carbs and digestible fiber and may help prevent acid reflux.
Top tip: When you’re eating your potatoes, ensure you avoid onions, garlic, and any other ingredient that may trigger reflux.
9. Healthier Fats
Not all fats are bad for you. In fact, fat is necessary for a balanced diet. The problem is, not all fats are equal. While some fats are good for you, others can induce acid reflux.
It would help if you avoided unhealthy fats like trans fat in processed foods, or reduced fats, in meat and dairy products. Rather than removing fats from your diet completely, you can try healthy fats as an alternative. You can replace unhealthy fats with unsaturated fats from plants or fish.
Examples of monounsaturated fats that reduce acid reflux include olive oil, canola oils, sesame oils, and sunflower oils; you can also get fats from avocados, peanuts, and peanut butter; and many nuts and seeds.
Foods include safflower oil, soybean oil, corn, flaxseed, walnut, and fatty fish such as salmon and trout.
Fennel is a delicious vegetable that can be served with a salad. The sweet licorice tasty vegetable also has a pH of 6.9, which increases alkalinity in the stomach and prevents the formation of acid. Fennel also helps to aid digestion and to avoid acid reflux.
In the past, ginger has been one of the go-to natural remedies for stomach aches. It boasts of remarkable anti-inflammatory properties, and in small doses, ginger can help you relieve symptoms of heartburn and other gastrointestinal problems.
You can add a small amount of grated or sliced ginger to your smoothies or recipes, or you may drink ginger tea to ease symptoms.
Top tip: Although ginger can help with acid reflux, taking too much may worsen the symptoms.
Parsley is another natural remedy that has been in use for thousands of years. Its anti-inflammatory ingredient makes parsley an excellent food choice to treat acid reflux and aid digestion. Parsley tea has proven to relieve symptoms of heartburn.
13. Aloe Vera
Aloe vera is another popular medicinal plant that boasts of extraordinary health properties. For example, aloe is rich in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and amino acids. It has anti-inflammatory properties and also aids digestion and reduced cholesterol. You can take aloe in the form of capsules, juices, or as a supplement.
Other Helpful Tips that can help prevent Acid reflux
Chewing gum helps to increase the production of saliva and reduces the amount of acid in the esophagus.
Top tip: Make sure you avoid spearmint and peppermint-flavored gum because it can relax the LES and trigger acid reflux.
Alcohol is one of the primary triggers for acid reflux. Taking alcoholic drinks can weaken the LES and cause reflux symptoms.
Top tip: If you have GERD, you may not have to abstain from alcohol completely. While some people may experience reflux after just one drink, some others can tolerate several cups. You may need to experiment to see what works for you.
Keep good posture during and after a meal
Your posture after you eat a meal can affect digestion. Slouching may put pressure on the stomach and force back stomach contents back into your esophagus.
To prevent acid reflux, make sure you sit up while eating and avoid lying down for at least two hours after eating a meal. Walking or standing right after a meal can boost digestion and helps your food flow in the right direction.
Avoid eating immediately before bed
During digestion, your body produces more gastric acid in your stomach to breakdown your food. The increased gastric acid present in the gut can find its way up into your esophagus if you’re lying down during digestion.
As you lay down, your LES may not be able to prevent stomach contents from traveling up the esophagus.
Although the timing of refluxes varies from individual to individual, I recommend you eat your dinner 5 or 6 hours before bedtime.
Finding your food triggers
If you have been experiencing acid reflux, you may need to find your triggers and avoid them. Heartburn is one of the most common symptoms of acid reflux and GERD. You may feel a burning or stinging sensation in your stomach or chest after eating a full meal or certain foods.
Other symptoms of GERD include:
- Sore throat
- Dry cough
- Chest pain
- Burping or hiccups
- Difficulty swallowing
- Regurgitation of food or sour liquid
- Lump in the throat
People with GERD have found that certain foods can spark their symptoms. There’s still no ultimate diet that can prevent GERD symptoms, especially since the symptoms and individuals vary from each other.
What may trigger acid reflux in a particular individual may not cause any symptoms in another person. Food triggers vary with each individual, so if you’re suspicious of any foods that may trigger or worsen your symptoms of GERD, you may need to avoid them.
To find your triggering foods, you should keep a food journal and track:
- What foods you eat before your acid reflux
- What time of day you ate before the acid reflux
- The symptoms you experienced
It is crucial to maintain the diary for at least a week so you can identify the foods that may be causing your acid reflux.
It’s helpful to track your foods for a more extended period if your diet varies. You can use the food diary to distinguish between the specific foods and drinks that may affect your GERD.
You can also use this nutritional advice to plan your GERD diet. With advice from your doctor, you should be able to minimize and control your symptoms successfully.
Treatment for GERD
Fortunately, GERD is not life-threatening. Your doctor may prescribe over-the-counter medications to relieve the symptoms of GERD. Personally, you may need to make some minor dietary and lifestyle changes. In extreme cases of GERD, you may require surgery.
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- Mayo Clinic Staff. (2018). Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).