If you suffer from heartburn or a sour taste in your mouth, you may need to adopt a gastroesophageal reflux disease diet to minimize your symptoms of GERD.
The gastroesophageal reflux disease diet
Some foods aggravate symptoms, so you’d avoid them in a gastroesophageal reflux disease diet. There are good substitutions for the foods that trigger GERD, and they tend to be healthier choices for other reasons. Think of it this way: Your discomfort is doing you a favor by steering you to better habits. For example, if you’re overweight, it gives you more motivation to drop some pounds.
The best approach is to learn the general guidelines in a gastroesophageal reflux disease diet and then see what is true for you. You might keep a food and symptom diary for five days or more. Then go over it with a sharp-eyed helper, to see what patterns you pick up.
Many foods seem to worsen GERD symptoms by relaxing the lower esophageal sphincter, the ring of muscle that separates your stomach from your esophagus. Normally that muscle closes on cue to prevent food in the stomach from moving up. If it relaxes, your stomach contents end up in the wrong place, giving you heartburn. High-fat foods, alcohol, chocolate, and peppermint have this effect. In people with GERD, the muscle is weakened or damaged.
Other foods trigger your stomach to produce more acid, which then can irritate the damaged lining of your esophagus. Foods that trigger acid include tomatoes and citrus fruits and juices.
Carbonated beverages increase acidity and put pressure on the stomach, which might push stomach acid upwards.
High-fat dairy and fatty meat may also be a problem for you.
Love chocolate? Sadly, because chocolate has both high fat and caffeine, it may be a key trigger for your symptoms. If you learn to associate it with the unpleasant feeling of heartburn, resisting chocolate may not be as hard to pull off as it sounds.
Other foods are good for you because they help reduce stomach acid. Top of the list are vegetables, prepared without a lot of added fat and sugar. Try green beans, broccoli, asparagus, cauliflower, leafy greens, and cucumbers. Potatoes are fine, if you eat a baked potato rather than mashed or French fries.
Ginger is a stomach soother. You can try ginger tea or add ginger root to recipes or smoothies.
Oatmeal can absorb acid. Try it with bananas, apples, or pears, which are less likely to trigger symptoms than citrus fruits.
Skip processed meat and get your protein from lean meats, tofu, fish, and egg whites. Egg yolks might trigger symptoms, but see whether that is true for you.
To enjoy milk, try low-fat, or fat-free milk and related products. Or try nondairy nut milk options. Eat plain bread rather than baked goods with extra fat like sweet rolls and doughnuts.
Eating strategies for GERD
You also may benefit from changing your eating patterns. Try these five strategies:
- Eat smaller, more frequent meals. These may reduce pressure on your stomach.
- Slow down. If you take smaller bites and chew, you’re less likely to overdo it.
- Don’t eat before bedtime. You want to stay upright for two to three hours after eating. Gravity will help keep your stomach contents from flowing upward.
- Eat only when you’re hungry.
- Avoid tight clothing or belts around your waist.
March 26, 2020
Janet O’Dell, RN