We’ve all seen those advertisements showing that all it takes to rid yourself of the discomfort of acid reflux is to pop a pill. But are pills the answer, because it sometimes seems like there is a tablet for everything these days.
Instead of adding yet another canister of pills to a crowded medicine cabinet, many health and nutrition experts are advocating lifestyle changes and making more sensible food choices by adopting an acid reflux diet.
Read on to discover more about how you can create a diet for acid reflux and avoid gastrointestinal distress at mealtimes.
What is Acid Reflux?
Acid reflux occurs because of acid from the stomach moving up into the food pipe (esophagus). Most people have experienced the uncomfortable burning sensation of displaced stomach acid at some point.
Occasional bouts are called heartburn, but acid reflux is a recurring and painful condition in some people. If someone experiences acid reflux more than twice a week, they are considered to have gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD.
The heartburn associated with GERD is often accompanied by more severe symptoms, including difficulty swallowing, a sore, dry throat, coughing, and hoarseness.
Why Not Just Keep Taking Pills?
If you can relieve your symptoms by taking a pill, why shouldn’t you continue down that track? The problem with antacid medication is that long-term use can have serious side effects.
Altering the natural balance of digestive juices in your stomach and digestive tract can eventually lead to constipation or diarrhea.
Studies have also linked medications like Prilosec and Prevacid to increased risks of pneumonia and osteoporosis (weak bones). Plus, they can have unintended interactions with other drugs people may be taking.
Antacids are a short-term solution. If you regularly experience acid reflux, it might be time to consider an acid reflux diet for the sake of your health.
Acid Reflux Foods to Avoid
The first step towards reducing the risk of heartburn is learning what acid reflux foods to avoid. Other health conditions and lifestyle choices may also increase the occurrence of acid reflux, including:
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Weight gain
- Eating too soon before bed
Eating certain types of foods can increase the chance of heartburn, including:
- Spicy foods
- Sugary foods
- Fatty Foods
- Too much caffeine
- Foods high in acids
Fatty foods are a double whammy. Too much fat in your diet can lead to weight gain. Fatty foods relax the esophageal sphincter, which opens the pathway for acid to travel up from the stomach.
For your convenience, we have included a handy acid reflux foods to avoid chart. You can print it out and put it somewhere visible when creating your grocery list or working out your meal plan for the week.
Doing this will make it easier to avoid foods that cause acid reflux because you won’t mistakenly add them to your shopping list.
Acid Reflux Drinks to Avoid
Acid reflux foods aren’t the only culprits giving you heartburn. The beverages you enjoy with your meal can also upset the delicate balance of stomach acids.
Consider the drinks you regularly consume and see if any of them are on our acid reflux drinks to avoid list below:
There’s a lot of ongoing research regarding GERD, and some results are conflicting. However, many researchers agree about high-fat drinks. Much of the research links high-fat drinks to worsening GERD symptoms, especially those created with liqueurs and cream.
Alcoholic beverages don’t seem to have much influence over acid reflux. Still, it pays to practice moderation, as there is evidence that over-indulging can increase the risk of esophageal cancer.
Foods that are high in sugars are likely culprits, so it’s no surprise that sugary carbonated beverages made it to this list. The excess calories can also lead to weight gain, which is another risk factor associated with acid reflux.
Citrus juices are often high in acidity. Given that acid reflux occurs because of too much acid in your stomach consider taking citrus juice off the menu. All juices are high in sugar content and lack many of the fruit’s nutrients. Consuming too much juice in general can lead to weight gain.
Coffee and Caffeinated Beverages
Learn where your limit is with coffee. Most people can handle one or two cups a day without triggering acid reflux, so cutting back without giving it up completely may be an option.
Diet for Acid Reflux
Cutting out specific foods that trigger acid reflux is not the only way to reduce the symptoms. There are also many foods you can add to your diet for acid reflux that can help. Here are just a few of the foods to consider.
Ginger has long been used as a home remedy for treating acid reflux. Its anti-inflammatory properties help to balance the gastrointestinal tract. You can add ginger to smoothies or use freshly grated ginger in your cooking.
Vegetables are low in sugar and fat and high in vitamins, minerals, and fibers that help restore balance. A few notable vegetables for adding to an acid reflux diet include leafy greens, cucumbers, potatoes, cauliflower, broccoli, beans, and asparagus.
Lean meats like turkey, fish, chicken are low in fat. Try poaching, broiling, grilling, or baking to avoid the extra fat intake from frying.
Healthy fats found in foods like avocado, nuts, flaxseed, and sesame oil can replace the saturated and trans fats you normally consume.
Egg whites are low in fat and packed with nutrients. You should avoid the egg yolks though because these are high in fats.
Oatmeal is a nutritious breakfast that every acid reflux should have on the menu. It’s high in fiber and will deliver a slow burn of energy to stop you from being tempted for a midmorning high- calorie or fatty snack.
Now that you have some idea about what it takes to adjust to an acid reflux diet, you can make a few other changes to your lifestyle that will help as well. Incorporating 2 or 3 hours of exercise into your week will help control your weight. Quitting smoking is simply good for your health all around.
If you’re not sure about what may be triggering your acid reflux, start a food diary and compare the times you experience symptoms to what you have eaten. Over time, the data you collect will help you create a customized acid reflux diet that will help you avoid heartburn.