Diet For GERD: The Best and Worst Foods for Acid Reflux

One of the most common Gastrointestinal disorders is Acid Reflux and Gastro Esophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), and they are most common in developed countries, suggesting its link to lifestyle and diet. The good news is that GERD is not life-threatening and can be cured. Still, if left untreated, it could lead to some life-threatening complications like Barrett’s esophagus, Esophagitis, and Esophageal adenocarcinoma.

The three terms Heartburn, Acid Reflux, and GERD are different but closely related. Acid reflux is a disorder that causes stomach contents such as acids, digestive enzymes, juices, and food to backflow from the stomach to the esophagus. GERD is a severe form of acid reflux. Heartburn is just a symptom of both.

1. What is GERD?

GERD is a chronic condition that arises as a result of frequent painful instances of Heartburn and Acid Regurgitation/ Reflux. GERD is not fatal but may affect the overall quality of life in affected individuals and disrupt their normal functioning.

Ordinary individuals can have reflux and still not feel the symptoms of heartburn. While occasional heartburn isn’t a problem, frequent incidents and failure to respond to non-prescribed medication must usually be treated to avoid discomfort and function.

Gastroesophageal Reflux (GERD)

1.1 What are the Symptoms of GERD?

Heartburn, acid regurgitation, nausea, and noncardiac chest pain are the most common symptoms used to identify the disease, even without a clinical diagnosis. A few less common symptoms, such as weight loss due to poor appetite, dysphagia (difficulty swallowing), and chronic cough, require a doctor’s intervention.

In some individuals, unexplained cases of tooth erosion are also observed due to excessive gastric acid regurgitation over time in both children and adults. This process, along with inadequate saliva production, which acts as a protective layer for the dental pellicle, results in tooth erosion as the gastric acids displace saliva.

2. Foods that trigger GERD to Know About

Here are some of the foods that trigger Heartburn and Acid reflux, according to Harvard Health:

2.1 Acidic foods

They are generally not advised to be consumed on an empty stomach. These may include food with high natural acid content, such as citrus fruits, pineapple, and certain vegetables, like tomatoes and vinegar. They act as fuel to the fire, triggering frequent Acid reflux.

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Photo from Unlimphotos

2.2 Processed foods

Foods containing preservatives and acidity regulators could disturb the pH balance in the stomach. Examples- Ketchups, jams, sauces. (it is always good to check ingredients)

2.3 Spices

Chilli powder, pepper, and spicy foods are irritant alkaloids. Capsaicin, for example, can stimulate mechanoreceptors in the esophagus, causing inflammatory lesions on the esophageal lining by stimulating the nerve endings.

2.4 Fatty Foods

The correlation between high-fat foods and increased consumption of saturated fats and cholesterol aggravates GERD symptoms. This is because fatty foods reduce Lower Esophageal Sphincter (LES) pressure, increase the rate of intermittent LES relaxation, and delay stomach emptying; all these could increase esophagus exposure to stomach acid in GERD.

Adding to this, the consumption of fatty foods can indirectly contribute to GERD by increasing the weight of an individual, leading to obesity and overweight, both of which are directly the causes of GERD.

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Image from Pixabay

2.5 High-Calorie Diet

Studies have shown that GERD symptoms are less frequently observed in those consuming a low-calorie diet than a high-calorie diet. A high-calorie diet without proper exercise could lead to excess fat storage, causing obesity. Examples are burgers, fried foods, and fast foods.

2.6 Alcohol

Studies have shown the negative influence of frequent alcohol consumption on the mucosal lining of the esophagus and its effect in intensifying the secretion of gastric juices in the stomach.

2.7 Tea and Coffee

They significantly reduced LES pressure and increased heartburn symptoms, especially when consumed on an empty stomach.

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Image from Pixabay

2.8 Peppermint and Spearmint chewing gum

Their consumption decreases the LES pressure.

2.9 Carbonated Beverages

They not only increase stomach acidity but also relax the LES. Some beverages also contain caffeine, which is a potent trigger for heartburn.

2.10 Chocolate

They contain caffeine and a compound called Theobromine that triggers GERD symptoms.

3. The Best Diet for GERD

3.1 Water- Rich Foods

The role of watery foods is to dilute the stomach acid. A weak stomach acid cannot trigger reflux symptoms. Examples- Melons, cucumber, celery.

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Image from Pixabay

3.2 Alkaline foods

Foods with a pH greater than seven are generally considered alkaline or basic. Alkaline foods neutralize stomach acid, thereby relieving heartburn. Examples include bananas, nuts, and legumes.

3.3 Low-fat alternatives

Examples include skimmed milk, low-fat yogurt, lean meats, or plant-based meat.

3.4 Non-citrus fruits

Examples- Bananas, apples, and avocados.

3.5 Healthy fats

Examples- Unsaturated fats in nuts and seeds.

3.6 Healthy beverages

Examples- Herbal tea and plant-based milk.

3.7 High-fiber foods

Vegetables, specifically green vegetables like spinach and broccoli, whole grains like oats, millet, and brown rice (unpolished rice).

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Image from Pixabay

4. Other Tips to Prevent Acid Reflux and Heartburn

  • Rising the head of the bed while sleeping.
  • Early dinner (at least 2-3 hours before sleep).
  • Exercising and maintaining a healthy weight.
  • Avoiding drinking and smoking.
  • You are following healthy eating habits, such as eating slowly, eating in small quantities but frequently, eating only when hungry, and practicing intermittent fasting.

Age, pregnancy, body weight, other medical conditions, rigorous exercise, and sometimes genetics. Along with all these, the nutritional composition of the diet, physical characteristics of the food (solid/liquid), and portion size of each meal, lack of proper sleep also contribute to acid reflux symptoms.

5. Final Words

GERD is a result of persistent Acid reflux incidents over some time. Hence, the treatment involves a gradual change in the diet depending on each individual. It is advisable to start by avoiding the foods that could trigger symptoms.

We are now living in the era of non-communicable, modern world diseases where we are the main reason for the cause and effect of the disease. Earlier, people fell into the disease trap through ignorance or lack of awareness about leading a healthy life. The irony of today’s world is that many of us choose to ignore even after knowing the negative side of our current lifestyle because we’re trapped in the vicious cycle of negligence.

Last Updated on by aashruti013

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