Gastroesophageal reflux disease (or GERD) may not seem like a big deal—unless you’ve experienced it. That burning sensation in your chest. The regurgitation of food and stomach acid. Difficulty swallowing. Even chest pain.
Symptoms like those can be a powerful motivator to change your diet.
While everyone experiences GERD triggers a little differently, keep your eye on some common culprits. Many of these foods are actually good for you, so try tracking your diet to see what foods are problematic for you. There’s no reason to give up garlic, for example, if it doesn’t bother you. Take a look at these following foods to avoid with GERD.
Tomatoes and Citrus Fruits/Juices
The high acid content in these foods is commonly known to exacerbate GERD. That also includes pizza, sadly, which can be a double-whammy due to the next category of culprits.
Foods High in Fat
Cheese, fries, prime rib and ice cream can cause heartburn in many GERD sufferers. That’s because fat slows down the emptying of the stomach, which puts pressure on the esophageal sphincter. That doesn’t mean you can never eat Ben & Jerry’s again—just be careful.
Garlic, Onion and Spicy Foods
Not everyone who suffers from GERD has a problem with these. But it’s a good idea to eliminate them on a trial basis if you’ve already done away with acidic and fatty foods and still have problems.
This is unfortunate, for sure, but coffee works negatively in two ways. It’s been shown to decrease the tone of the lower esophageal sphincter, which invites stomach contents to come in. Caffeine also stimulates acid secretion. If you love coffee, try one with low acidity.
Mint and Chocolate
Like coffee, these foods can chemically cause the lower esophageal sphincter to loosen, triggering acid reflux. But while mint—and mint gum—can cause problems, chewing gum in general has been shown to have a beneficial effect on GERD because it increases saliva, which helps neutralize stomach acid. Just choose a flavor other than mint if it bothers you.
While alcohol is a known contributing factor to GERD, it affects everyone differently. Try limiting yourself to one drink or not drinking for two hours before bed.
The carbonation in soda can cause the stomach to distend and bloat, placing extra strain on the lower esophageal sphincter.
So what foods should you eat? Foods that reduce stomach acid and fight GERD include green leafy vegetables, non-citrus fruits, oatmeal, ginger, lean meats and healthy fats found in such foods as avocado and walnuts.
The good news is that most people with GERD don’t have to give up their favorite foods and drinks altogether. But it is smart to limit them, not indulge right before bed and not combine them. Pizza and beer followed by ice cream, for example, will definitely cause problems.
If you’re struggling with GERD and could use some help, download our eBook, Your Guide to Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease for more answers.