If you suffer the debilitating symptoms of acid reflux or the chronic form of the condition called GERD, then you know that the smallest choice can trigger painful side effects. On that same note, some small lifestyle choices — especially tailoring your meals — actually alleviate symptoms of the condition. Here are six ways to adjust your diet to accommodate acid reflux.
Keep a meal journal: Unfortunately, there's no one-fix diet for those with acid reflux and GERD. Each person with the disease has different triggers and different symptoms. Yet, keeping a detailed journal for anywhere between two weeks to a month, listing each item eaten, when you ate it and any side-effects afterward is a simple method for evaluating what food choices exacerbate your condition and which foods are safe.
>> Read more: Journals: There's One for Everyone Out There
Once you know what foods to avoid, customizing a diet comes easily. Consider what foods share similar properties. For example, while usually a go-to vegetable, broccoli triggers acid reflux for some. In this case, eliminating same-family vegetables — like cauliflower, collards and cabbage — proves helpful.
However, don't forget to evaluate your state of mind and environment before completely crossing an item off the safe list. If you notice that certain foods only sometimes aggravate heartburn or indigestion, record your feelings and focus on the time you ate.
As Gerd-diet.com notes, anxiety, eating too quickly and eating too soon before bed all contribute to these symptoms, as well. If the symptoms prove finicky, sometimes simply changing when you eat that particular food means you can enjoy it in moderation.
Lessen caffeine intake: Despite any caffeine addiction, accept that ditching that morning coffee — or at least that third morning coffee — needs to fall into your new diet plan. However, coffee doesn't stand alone on the list of offenders. Tea — especially mint tea, sodas and carbonated beverages — trigger acid reflux and heartburn.
According to gastroenterology expert Dr. Frank Jackson, anything with caffeine kicks acid reflux into gear and especially affects the lower esophagus, meaning those with GERD need to especially reduce this type of beverage intake.
Still, don't think decaffeinated coffee and tea solves the problem; their high acid levels make them a no-no in either form. The one exception lies in anise tea, which often reduces acid, especially with added lavender.
Avoid spicy food: For many afflicted by acid reflux, simply eating food before it's cooled leads to stomach discomfort. Yet, food high in spicy heat level prove as dangerous as citrus heavy meals. Spicy and even mild salsas get the nix, as tomatoes especially cause or heighten stomach problems. Scratch off chili, curry and anything heavy with spicy peppers.
Still, don't mourn the loss of that favorite Mexican or Indian restaurant. There's always alternative options that offer milder seasonings and flavors. Hint: Stay away from garlic and raw onions; opt for seafood, rice and greens.
Ditch fatty foods: Since high-fat content foods need to be tailored in every diet, it's no surprise that those suffering from acid reflux and GERD especially need to limit their daily intake. Healthline.com suggests avoiding — or at least greatly reducing — fried and fatty foods. These include french fries; full-fat dairy foods, like whole milk, butter, sour cream and cheese; lard, bacon or ham fat; high-fat desserts, like ice-cream or milk chocolate; potato chips; and creamy sauces or dressings.
Also, look for leaner cuts of beef, pork and lamb. Such foods delay stomach emptying and decrease pressure on the lower esophagus so that it opens, which causes acid reflux. Health.com advises opting for poultry, but make sure your chicken or turkey is skinless.
Eat dinner earlier: Since acid reflux complicates regular sleeping patterns, it's essential to leave an exceptional distance between lying down to bed and eating dinner. WebMD advises eating a full two to three hours before.
Introduce foods with probiotics: Probiotics are good bacteria found in the gastrointestinal tract that aid stomach health and the immunity system. With a probiotic imbalance, not only is it harder to fight illness, but digestive functions also go haywire.
As such, eating certain foods with added probiotics, like yogurt, help people manage their digestive system by fighting harmful stomach bacteria. Though not a fit for everyone, a study shows probiotics can lead to less severe reflux symptoms, improve the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and heal digestive tract disorders.
Living with acid reflux doesn't mean living in extremes. With the proper diet restrictions and management, there's no need to choose either starving or accepting pain. Find out your triggers and start eating happy. If changing your diet doesn’t seem to help, you should consult your doctor, who may recommend medications to alleviate the symptoms.
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