We’ve all had a case of nasty heartburn once in our lives. Usually, the heartburn goes away by itself or by using OTC medication like TUMS ®. But, GERD is a chronic condition and it is estimated that 20 percent of Americans suffer from it.
This painful and irritating condition is not something to be ignored or taken lightly as it can lead to permanent damage of the esophagus and even cancer. A GERD diet is your most important tool when combating this disease. Removing GERD triggers from your diet and adding gut friendly foods is the main approach to treating GERD.
Is GERD Caused By Your Diet?
“Diet plays a major role in controlling acid reflux symptoms and is the first line of therapy used for people with GERD” claims Ekta Gupta, a gastroenterologist at Johns Hopkins Medicine. Because GERD is a digestive disorder, food plays a huge role in its mechanism. A GERD diet is one of the best ways to treating GERD.
A study published in the Gastroenterology Research and Practical Journal reported a relationship between specific foods and esophagitis, a symptom of GERD. A few examples of foods that you need to exempt from your GERD diet include:
– Meat because of its high content of cholesterol
– Fatty and oily foods
– High intake of salt
– Dairy products that are rich in calcium like milk and cheese
GERD Diet: Foods To Avoid
The following are a list of foods that may trigger GERD symptoms. These foods cause the esophageal sphincter to relax causing food to be pushed upwards leading to acid reflux. Your GERD diet seeks to minimize foods that cause this muscle to relax and foods that create acid in the stomach.
Foods with high contents of fat can cause two problems for GERD patients. One, it relaxes the muscle we mentioned above which causes food to back up in the esophagus. Second, these foods also take more time to empty from the stomach.
Eliminating high-fat foods from your GERD diet can help you reduce acid reflux. An example of these foods are:
– Fried food
– Fast food
– Packaged chips
– Bacon and sausage
– Fried beef, pork or lamb
– Fat from lard, bacon or ham
– Gravies and cream sauces
– Dairy products that are high in fat like: butter, cheese and creams
Surprised that fruits need to be removed? High acidic fruits are actually a no-go for this GERD diet. They can increase the contents of acid in the stomach during digestion. These are some of the fruits and vegetables that need to be excluded because of their high acidity.
– Tomatoes and tomato sauces (including pizza sauce)
Remember, the GERD diet seeks to reduce the quantity of foods that either create high volume of stomach acid during digestion or relax the esophagus muscles causing food to back up. Some of these might be your favorite food but health is more important than consuming these delights.
– Chocolate has an ingredient called methylxanthine. This chemical plays a role in relaxing the sphincters in the LES.
– Spicy foods
– Carbonated beverages
While there is little clinical evidence linking these foods to the reduction of GERD symptoms. Majority of these foods come from first person experiences and advice from health care professionals. Dr Gupta says, “moderation is key since many people may not be able to or want to completely eliminate these foods”.
Also, triggers may not be the same for everyone, a little trial and error experiment of removing the above mentioned foods and your GERD symptoms minimizing should help you understand which foods are a no-go for you.
GERD Diet: Foods To Consume
The daunting part of this GERD diet is over. While it may seem that a lot from your diet is being cut out, the majority of those foods should be consumed in moderation whether you suffer from GERD or not.
The good news is that there are numerous foods you can incorporate into your GERD diet. The goal of a GERD diet is to help restore the natural bacterial flora of the gut. A study in 2013 showed that the following foods help in reducing GERD symptoms.
High Fiber Foods
Fiber is one of the best things to consume to help your gut attain healthy PH levels.
– Whole grains: oatmeal, brown rice, oats and quinoa
– Fruits with high fiber: berries, apples, bananas, melons, peaches and pears
– Vegetables: asparagus, green beans, carrots, beets, sweet potatoes and broccoli
Lean meat and seafood
One of the types of foods that we advised to avoid was meat with high fat content. In place of that, you can consume:
– Seafood: salmon and trout
While cutting out high-fat foods, you still need a moderate supply of fats. Try getting your dose of healthy fats from these sources.
– Olive, sesame or sunflower oil
Low pH foods are highly acidic and need to be avoided as they lead to acid reflux. Alkaline foods are higher in pH and can help balance stomach acid. A few examples of alkaline foods are:
Probiotics can help restore the natural bacterial flora in the intestines and gut. Also, they help to reduce digestive issues by balancing your digestive system. These foods contain natural probiotics:
– Raw Kimchi
– Fermented pickles and vegetables
Apart from incorporating a GERD diet in to your life, there are other changes you can make to minimize GERD symptoms.
Dr. Gupta says, “try to avoid eating problem foods late in the evening closer to bedtime, so they are not sitting in your stomach and then coming up your esophagus when you lay down at night. It’s also a good idea to eat small frequent meals instead of bigger, heavier meals and avoid late-night dinners and bedtime snacks.”
Apart from this solid piece of advice, here are a few other changes to incorporate in your life with a GERD diet:
– Stop smoking
– Avoid tight clothing and belts
– Manage a healthy weight
– Sit upright after eating for at least an hour
– Raise your head while sleeping
If you suffer from a painful sensation in the chest with recurring acid reflux, then applying a GERD diet in your life can be the cure. To conquer GERD, you have to opt for a low fat diet and work on your weight.
A diet like intermittent fasting is not just the latest lifestyle fad, but a diet that works. Combining your diet with the right workout can help you propel your lifestyle to a healthier path. A GERD diet and a few lifestyle changes are your best bet to naturally healing your digestive system and minimizing GERD.