Think heartburn and indigestion are the only signs of acid reflux? Turns out a nagging cough or hoarse throat could signal the condition too. In this exclusive interview, we ask a leading medical expert to share symptoms, treatments and recipes for relief. Getting a case of acid reflux (heartburn) once in a while isn’t unusual, but some people suffer from burning discomfort, bloating and belching almost every time they eat. About 20% of the population has gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), a chronic acid reflux condition that’s diagnosed by a doctor.
One reason this happens is that the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) is weakened or damaged. Normally the LES closes to prevent food in the stomach from moving up into the esophagus.
The foods in GERD diet you eat affect the amount of acid your stomach produces. Eating the right kinds of food is key to controlling acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), a severe, chronic form of acid reflux.
This regurgitation is usually long-term, and can result in uncomfortable symptoms, including heartburn and pain in the upper abdomen. The severity of the condition often relates to diet and lifestyle.
Certain foods tend to encourage symptoms of GERD. You may be advised to eat these foods less often, or to cut them out of your diet completely.
If your esophagus is damaged from GERD, it’s also important to avoid foods that can irritate this more sensitive tissue and damage it further.
This GERD diet is used to help reduce discomfort in the esophagus caused by Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD). Symptoms such as heartburn, and chest discomfort and a bitter taste in the mouth often occur, due to acid washing up from the stomach. Coughing, hoarseness, or shortness of breath can occur if the fluid washes into the breathing passages. You can find more information about GERD
GERD Diet And Nutrition
Fibrous foods make you feel full so you’re less likely to overeat, which may contribute to heartburn. So, load up on healthy fiber from these foods:
- Whole grains such as oatmeal, couscous and brown rice.
- Root vegetables such as sweet potatoes, carrots and beets.
- Green vegetables such as asparagus, broccoli and green beans.
Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits. While most likely avoiding citrus fruits and juices, like oranges and lemons, choose from a variety of non-citrus fruits such as bananas, melons, apples, and pears among others.
Vegetables. Select from the wide variety of vegetables. Avoid or reduce sauces or toppings that are high in fat or other irritants like tomatoes or onions.
Foods fall somewhere along the pH scale (an indicator of acid levels). Those that have a low pH are acidic and more likely to cause reflux. Those with higher pH are alkaline and can help offset strong stomach acid. Alkaline foods include:
Eating foods that contain a lot of water can dilute and weaken stomach acid. Choose foods such as:
- Broth-based soups
- Herbal tea
Enough talk about feeling the burn! According to a Nutrition in Clinical Practice review, ginger is one of the many herbal remedies you can eat to avoid aggravating your esophagus and calm acid reflux. For starters, ginger is notorious for its anti-inflammatory properties and is often used to treat gastrointestinal conditions.
Interestingly enough, the component in ginger that helps relieve symptoms of acid reflux is melatonin. You probably know melatonin as the sleepytime chemical our bodies produce. When levels of melatonin are too low, stomach acid becomes more prevalent. Not only does melatonin reduce gastric acid, but it also prevents the loosening or weakening of the LES. Dice, slice, or shave this fresh root into a smoothie or tea!
By now, you should already know that oatmeal is a superfood way to start your morning. These whole grains won’t cause acidity to stir; in fact, it absorbs it. If you were to throw in cranberries (which are pretty acidic), it would actually soak up the acidity and neutralize the dish.
One of the reasons oat milk has become so popular is because in addition to not being a common allergen, oats are anti-inflammatory and tend to ease digestion,” Sass says. “You can also add rolled oats to a smoothie, or make dairy-free overnight oats a breakfast or snack staple
If you weren’t already a connoisseur of almond butter, then you will be now! As stated earlier, this nut butter contains a bit less saturated fat, so your LES will not be so quick to go lazy when it passes through.
“In addition to its good fat and—bonus—plant protein, almond butter provides more magnesium, vitamin E, and calcium than peanut butter,” says Sass. “It’s a great choice as a dip for fresh fruit or veggies, or blended into smoothies. You can even use it in savory recipes to thicken soups, or as the base for gingery nut butter sauce.”
Not only does 1 cup of raw spinach fulfill a remarkable 181% of your daily vitamin K needs, but it’s also one of the most alkaline foods in its raw state. Alkaline foods are essential to consume because they balance out the pH in our bodies; they work to neutralize the acidity. Make it a point to consume spinach in its raw state—it actually becomes a bit acidic once cooked.
Here’s a recipe for Spanish-Style Pizza with Romesco Sauce, Spinach, and Artichoke Hearts—proving this acid-reflux helper can also be delicious!
This fruit actually has an alkalizing effect on your body. More clearly, it reduces the acidity in your system. Your LES and your kidneys will both thank you for this one, because watermelon is chock-full of the substance that your body needs to survive: H2O. “Watermelon is incredibly anti-inflammatory. The pigment that gives it its beautiful hue is tied to brain, eye, heart, and bone health,” says Sass.
Did you do a double-take when you saw lentils? We understand. Many people think this high fiber food is notorious for causing bloating, gas, and even heartburn. However, it’s the way that they are prepared that often causes these symptoms to escalate. Most times people like to douse their lentils in spices and seasonings, two major culprits of acid reflux, to add some flavor to the naturally tasteless legume.
“Lentils are a true superfood. This member of the pulse family, which also includes beans, peas, and chickpeas, are chock-full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, plant protein, and fiber,” Sass says. “They’re also naturally gluten-free and support steady, even energy.”
All hail kale! This leafy green is not only one of the best foods for a toned body, but it also ranks right up there with spinach on the alkaline scale. Not to mention, kale provides a wealth of other benefits to the body and is easy to add into smoothies in the mornings, but also salads, sandwiches, or wraps later in the day when nighttime acid reflux can strike.
“There are so many reasons to make kale a go-to veggie,” Sass says. “It’s loaded with immune and skin-supporting vitamins A and C, bone-supporting vitamin K, health-protective antioxidants, and natural detoxifiers, which help deactivate potentially damaging chemicals or shuttle them out of the body more quickly.”
If you have yet to sip on some collagen-rich bone broth, make it a point to do so ASAP, especially if you’re experiencing repeated bouts of acid reflux. Not only is collagen known to alleviate joint pain and promote skin elasticity, but it can also fend off inflammation in the gut.
Munch on this snack to reap its alkalizing effects, and, similar to watermelon, get an extra boost of hydration.
“Celery is made up of more than 90% water, and it’s not an acidic vegetable,” explains Rizzo. “If you can’t drink enough water throughout the day, eating celery may help you stay hydrated and calm acid reflux symptoms.”
It also has the ability to quell hunger pangs, so if it’s 5:30 p.m. and dinner isn’t until 7 p.m., grab a stalk of celery to quiet those grumbles and help prevent the acid reflux symptoms that can keep you from sleeping.
One word: bromelain. This enzyme is one of the sole reasons why pineapple is one of the best foods to eat to tame the flame of acid reflux. More specifically, bromelain is an anti-inflammatory agent that aids digestion and, as a result, reduces your symptoms of acid reflux. You’ll also boost your metabolism with a cup of fresh pineapple!
These low-in-calorie red bulbs contain a variety of chemicals that enable digestion to flow smoothly, making your chances of experiencing an acidic uproar in your throat very minimal. Numerous cultures swear by the radishes’ ability to alleviate heartburn and stomach aches and gas. In addition, radishes are key players in keeping your gallbladder in good health.
Broccoli is loaded in probiotics, which are made up of good bacteria that your gut loves to flourish in. (Perhaps you have heard doctors recommend yogurt to their patients if they prescribed them antibiotics, because antibiotics extinguish all—good and bad—gut bugs.) Probiotics work to protect the good and keep away the bad, which can sneakily encourage gastric acid to fuss with your LES.
Rizzo says eating a diet full of green vegetables is the best diet for combating acid reflux, especially broccoli. “It’s high on the pH scale, meaning that it’s alkaline and not acidic. However, broccoli is very rich in fiber and can cause gas and indigestion in some people with digestive issues.” she says.
Having optimal gut-healthy bacteria is a key factor in dodging acidic upset. Seeking out foods rich in probiotics can help your stomach flourish in good gut flora that facilitates digestion and absorption of nutrients from food. Some fermented foods to try include things like drinking kombucha and eating sauerkraut and kimchi. They will give you the good kind of bacteria, and, as a result, promote gut health.
Lastly, we have this tropical fruit! Papain is the enzyme credible for improving your digestion and assisting your body with absorbing protein. It can also, of course, help with acid reflux. Put down that bottle of Tums for good, and dig into a juicy papaya any time during the day instead.
Foods To Avoid
GERD is a digestive disorder, so diet can often affect the symptoms of the condition. Making dietary and lifestyle changes can go a long way toward treating many instances of GERD.
An article published in the Gastroenterology Research and Practice Journal found a connection between reflux esophagitis, which is inflammation that is usually due to GERD, and a high intake of specific foods.
Foods that might make GERD or reflux esophagitis symptoms worse include:
- meat, as it tends to be high in cholesterol and fatty acids
- oils and high-fat foods, which may cause the sphincter in the stomach to relax
- high quantities of salt
- calcium-rich foods, such as milk and cheese, which are sources of saturated fats
Foods can trigger GERD symptoms.
- Chocolate — Everyone’s favorite treat comes with a dark side; chocolate contains caffeine, cocoa, and plant chemicals that can all trigger heartburn. Also, a chemical in cocoa relaxes the LES, making it easier for stomach contents to leak into your esophagus.
- Peppermint — Known for soothing an irritable bowel, peppermint has the opposite effect on acid reflux. Peppermint relaxes the muscles used for digestion, and a relaxed LES is a leaky LES.
- Fatty foods — If you feel like fatty foods make you sluggish, you’re right. They relax your LES and are slower to digest than other foods. When food sits in your stomach longer, your body responds by making more acid. Fried foods like onion rings are obvious culprits, but meats like prime rib or bacon, and whole milk dairy products also cause symptoms.
- Spicy foods — Spicy foods make acid reflux worse in two ways. First, the capsaicin in many spicy foods can slow digestion. But before it even gets that far, it can irritate an already irritated esophagus on its way down.
- Acidic foods and drinks — Acidic foods are common triggers of acid reflux. Foods like citrus fruits and juices, tomatoes and tomato products, pineapple, and vinaigrette salad dressings all have a high acid content, contributing to an already acidic environment.
- Garlic — Garlic, especially raw, is known to cause heartburn and upset stomach in healthy people. That makes it even more likely to cause issues for those who suffer from acid reflux.
- Onions — Raw onions don’t just make you cry; they stimulate acid production. That extra acid puts you at risk for heartburn.
- Drinks containing alcohol, caffeine, or carbonation — Alcohol and caffeine both relax the LES, allowing acid to leak up your esophagus. The bubbles in carbonation expand your stomach, pushing stomach contents up against the LES. That makes soda, coffee and tea, and alcoholic beverages all triggers. Be especially careful with mixed drinks, which could combine triggers.