December 22, 2020 6 min read

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, also known as GERD, is the chronic form of acid reflux that occurs when stomach acid escapes the stomach and flows back into the esophagus. The burning sensation in the chest and throat caused by acid reflux is commonly called heartburn. If you experience acid reflux symptoms twice a week or more, you may have GERD.

In this post, we’ll take a closer look at what it means to have GERD, explore GERD diet plans, and discuss some other tips to help you manage GERD symptoms. Use the links below to skip ahead to the section that best answers your query, or read through for a comprehensive take on the GERD diet.

What is GERD?

According to the National Library of Medicine1, GERD is a more serious manifestation of acid reflux, typically occurring twice per week or more. GERD and GER (acid reflux) happen when the opening of your lower esophageal sphincter (LES) relaxes or weakens when it shouldn’t, allowing acid from your stomach to travel back up through your esophagus. When acid escapes from your stomach, you may feel heartburn or chest pain, and experience a dry cough, regurgitation, shortness of breath, or trouble swallowing. GERD treatment may include lifestyle changes (i.e., dieting), GERD medication, or GERD surgery.

 

stomach and acid reflux infographic

 

GERD Diet

If you’ve ever experienced heartburn symptoms, odds are, you noticed it after eating a large meal or something spicy, greasy, or acidic. This is because GERD symptoms, such as heartburn, are often triggered by the food that we eat. In fact, Johns Hopkins gastroenterologist, Ekta Gupta, M.B.B.S., M.D.2, says, “Diet plays a major role in controlling acid reflux symptoms and is the first line of therapy used for people with GERD.”

Learning what to eat with GERD comes down to knowing which foods can trigger your symptoms and which ones can soothe or prevent GERD symptoms. In these next sections, we’ll take a look at which GERD foods to avoid as well as GERD-friendly foods to incorporate into your diet.

GERD foods to avoid and foods to enjoy

GERD foods to avoid

Foods that are known triggers for heartburn cause the esophageal sphincter to relax, and in turn, allow stomach acid to travel up through the esophagus while also delaying the digestive process. Johns Hopkins Medicine2 says individuals suffering from GERD should avoid the following foods:

  • Fast foods
  • Fried foods
  • Potato chips and highly processed snacks
  • Pizza
  • Chili powder, black pepper, white pepper, and cayenne
  • Cheese
  • Fatty meats such as sausage and bacon
  • Tomato-based sauces and dips
  • Chocolate
  • Citrus fruits
  • Peppermint
  • Carbonated drinks

GERD diet foods that help

While there are plenty of foods that contribute to GERD flare-ups, there are even more healthy and satisfying GERD diet options that won’t irritate your symptoms:

  • Alkaline foods: melons, cauliflower, nuts, fennel, bananas
  • High-fiber foods: whole grains (oatmeal, couscous, brown rice), green vegetables (broccoli, asparagus), root veggies (beets, carrots, sweet potatoes) 
  • Watery foods: watermelon, celery, cucumber, lettuce, broth, herbal tea
  • Fruits (non-citrus): apples, pears, bananas, melons
  • Vegetables: kale, spinach, collard greens, chard, cabbage
  • Complex carbs: potatoes, rice, whole grain bread
  • Healthy fats: olive oil, sesame oil, sunflower oil, avocados, peanuts and peanut butter, seeds, tofu, fatty fish (salmon and trout)
  • Lean proteins: eggs, lean meats that are grilled, poached, broiled, or baked

Note:Everyone reacts to food differently; pay attention to how your body responds to different foods as you build a GERD diet that works for you.

Additional Tips to Help GERD Symptoms

Like you would for almost any other medical condition, addressing your GERD symptoms should be a holistic health endeavor. In addition to avoiding symptom-triggering foods and following a GERD diet, there are several other habits and home remedies that can work to improve your symptoms in the moment and over time. Let’s take a look at some examples.

 

avoid alcohol title infographic

Avoid alcohol 

The International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders3 says those with GERD and acid reflux symptoms should steer clear of alcohol, which can irritate and weaken the LES. Some individuals experience uncomfortable heartburn symptoms after just one drink, while others only feel the effects after drinking a moderate amount.

 

chewing gum title infographic

Try chewing gum

Chewing gum boosts saliva production, and in turn, reduces the amount of acid in the esophagus. If you do chew gum to reduce your GERD symptoms, make sure you avoid peppermint and spearmint flavors, as they can cause the lower esophageal sphincter to relax and open up the valve for stomach acid to travel into the esophagus, resulting in heartburn and other symptoms.

 

good posture for gerd title infographic

Maintain good posture after eating

When your body is busy digesting food, it’s a good idea to either stand or sit up straight for at least two hours after eating. When you sit up, you’re letting gravity do a lot of the work in the digestive process while also preventing acid from escaping from the stomach.

 

do not eat before bed title infographic

 

Try not to eat before bed

As we mentioned in the last tip, it’s always a good idea to stay upright for at least two hours after eating a meal. The digestion process ramps up your stomach’s production of acid, on top of the acid contents of your meal, so allowing your body to complete this process before lying down is a great way to prevent symptoms.

 

home remedies for gerd title infographic

 

Home remedies (foods)

If you’re looking for quick GERD relief, try these pantry staples:

  • Ginger
  • Non-fat milk
  • Diluted apple cider vinegar
  • Lemon water 
lifestyle changes title infographic

Lifestyle GERD remedies

  • Maintain a healthy weight: Extra weight can put additional pressure near your abdomen, potentially forcing food and stomach acid back into your esophagus, causing acid reflux symptoms.
  • Avoid tight-fitting clothing: Just like extra weight can put pressure on your abdomen, so too can tight-fitting clothing. Try to wear loose clothing when you’re experiencing reflux symptoms, or before and after eating. 
  • Sleep on your left side at an incline: If your acid reflux symptoms tend to become exacerbated at night, you might need to adjust your sleeping posture. Because of the way your esophagus curves, doctors recommend sleeping on your left side and at an incline to reduce symptoms. Our Reflux Relief System uses a three-component structure to provide clinically-proven relief from acid reflux and GERD.

When to see a doctor

When it comes to your health, taking action on your own can be a great first step. However, if your GERD symptoms worsen or do not improve after you’ve implemented a GERD diet or tried other treatments, consult your physician. While many patients can find relief through a combination of diet and lifestyle adjustments, medication for further evaluation may be recommended by your doctor.

woman holding her stomach from gerd pain

Wrapping Up 

Diet plays a big role in physical health in so many ways — subscribing to a GERD diet can help minimize your symptoms and provide relief when your symptoms have been triggered. 

  • GERD foods to avoid: greasy, spicy, highly processed foods, acidic foods (i.e., tomatoes), fatty meats, carbonated drinks, chocolate, citrus, and dairy (except non-fat).
  • GERD-friendly foods: alkaline foods (i.e., cauliflower, ginger, nuts), high-fiber foods, leafy green vegetables, root vegetables, non-citrus fruits, healthy fats, lean proteins.

In addition to following a GERD diet, GERD patients can also implement certain lifestyle habits to reduce symptoms in both the short and long-term. Maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding tight clothing, and sleeping in the best position for GERD, are all positive examples you can use to mitigate GERD symptoms.

Medcline Reflux Relief System 

Designed with medical-grade materials and physician-recommended positioning at its core, our GERD pillow is the only product on the market that creates the inclined, left-side posture that provides effective and natural acid reflux relief.

Our three-part Reflux Relief System has been clinically proven to improve symptoms of:

  • Gastroesophageal Reflux (GER/Acid Reflux)
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
  • Laryngopharyngeal Reflux (LPR) // Silent Reflux
  • Gestational Reflux

Want to learn more about how MedCline can help? Talk to one of our Sleep Specialists about our sleep solutions today.


References

  1. “Acid reflux, Heartburn, and GERD: What’s the difference?,” National Library of Medicine, https://magazine.medlineplus.gov/article/acid-reflux-heartburn-and-gerd-whats-the-difference, 25 Sep. 2020
  2. Ekta Gupta, M.B.B.S., M.D., “GERD Diet: Foods That Help with Acid Reflux (Heartburn),” https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/gerd-diet-foods-that-help-with-acid-reflux-heartburn, 25 Sep. 2020, 
  3. “Diet Changes for GERD,” International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders, https://www.aboutgerd.org/diet-lifestyle-changes/diet-changes-for-gerd.html 25 Sep. 2020