Symptoms of acid reflux occur
when acid moves backward from the stomach into the esophagus. This occurs
because of a weakened or damaged lower esophageal sphincter (LES). Under normal
conditions, the LES typically closes to keep food from coming back up after it
enters your stomach.
The foods you eat affect the
amount of acid your stomach produces. They can also be directly irritating to
the esophagus. Diet and nutrition are key considerations for those who suffer from acid
reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), a severe, chronic form of
Many people with GERD find that
certain foods trigger their symptoms. These foods may irritate the esophagus.
They may also cause problems with the LES. Discovering which foods make your
symptoms worse can help you deal with your GERD.
No single diet can prevent all
symptoms of GERD. Triggers are different for different people. In order to
figure out your triggers, it helps to keep a food diary. This diary should
- what food you eat
- what time of day you eat
- any symptoms that you experience
Keep the diary for at least a
week. You may want to go longer if you eat a varied diet. You can then use the
diary to identify the specific foods and drinks that affect your GERD.
The following diet and nutrition
guide is a starting point to plan your meals. Use this guide in conjunction
with your food journal and recommendations from your doctor. The goal is to
minimize and control your symptoms and to find a diet that works for you.
Foods for People with Reflux
Doctors debate which foods
actually cause reflux symptoms. However, certain foods have been shown to cause
problems in large numbers of people. These foods are good ones to try
eliminating from your diet.
Fried and fatty foods can cause
the LES to relax, allowing more stomach acid to back up into the esophagus.
They also delay stomach emptying. Eating such foods puts you at greater risk
for reflux symptoms. Reducing your total daily fat intake can help.
The following foods have high fat
content. Avoid them or eat them only sparingly.
- french fries and onion rings
- full-fat dairy products like butter,
whole milk, regular cheese, and sour cream
- fatty or fried cuts of beef, pork, or
- bacon fat, ham fat, and lard
- high-fat desserts or snacks like ice
cream and potato chips
- cream sauces, gravies, and creamy salad
Fruits and vegetables are
important to a healthy diet. However, certain fruits can cause or worsen
GERD symptoms. Specifically, highly acidic fruits are more likely to make your
symptoms worse. If you suffer from frequent acid reflux, you may want to reduce
or eliminate your intake of:
- tomato sauce (or foods where tomato
sauce or paste is a main ingredient, such as pizza or chili)
Chocolate contains an ingredient
called methylxanthine. It has been shown to relax the smooth muscle in the LES.
This can increase reflux.
and Spicy Foods
Spicy and tangy foods trigger
heartburn symptoms in many people. This includes foods such as onions and
These foods won’t be triggers for
everyone. If they’re a big component of your diet, make certain to track them
carefully in your diary. Some spices may bother you more than others.
Foods That May
Help Reduce Your Symptoms
No diet has been proven to
prevent GERD. However, certain foods may help ease symptoms in some people.
Talk to your doctor if you have
questions about whether certain foods should be part of your diet. What helps
improve acid reflux for one person may be problematic for another. Working with
your doctor can help you develop a diet that works for you.
Probiotics are “good” bacteria.
They are commonly found in yogurt. According to the Mayo Clinic, eating
probiotic foods may aid digestion. It may also offer some protection from
Preliminary studies have shown
that probiotics can help treat specific digestive problems such as:
- diarrhea (particularly when it is caused
- irritable bowel syndrome
- certain intestinal infections
There is not enough research on
how probiotics affect GERD symptoms. However, there is reason to believe they
may be helpful in some people.
Research shows that
increased fiber intake, specifically in the form of fruits and vegetables, may
help protect against a number of digestive woes, including GERD. Scientists are
not yet certain how fiber prevents GERD symptoms. However, increasing your
dietary fiber is generally a good idea. In addition to helping with your GERD,
fiber also reduces the risk of:
- high cholesterol
- uncontrolled blood sugar
- hemorrhoids and other bowel problems