More than 60 million Americans experience acid reflux or "heartburn" monthly, according to the American College of Gastroenterology. The feeling of heartburn results from the stomach acid traveling back into the esophagus. Experiencing heartburn or acid reflux more than twice a week for a period of several weeks is called gastroesophageal reflux disorder, or GERD. GERD can develop in anyone, but it is more likely to occur in overweight or obese individuals, pregnant women and smokers. Although acid reflux may seem like an annoyance, it can cause many serious healthy complications. Diet and lifestyle factors may contribute to or decrease episodes of heartburn.
Foods to Avoid
Certain diet changes may alleviate the symptoms of acid reflux. The primary aggravators of acid reflux are caffeine, alcohol, tobacco and stress. Many other foods may cause symptoms as well, such as fatty foods, chocolate, coffee, peppermint, spicy foods, citrus foods, wine and carbonated beverages.
Not all high-risk foods will trigger acid reflux in all individuals. To determine which foods aggravate your symptoms, keep a food diary. Record what you eat at each meal, and take note of your acid reflux symptoms. Do this for at least a week, and then consult with your doctor and a registered dietitian to help devise a meal plan specific to your symptoms.
Individuals with acid reflux should increase their intake of high-fiber foods, like noncitrus fruits, vegetables and whole grains. It is important to eat small meals often throughout the day to decrease symptoms. Drink beverages between meals rather than with them. Choose proteins that are lower in fat, such as fish, chicken or plant-based protein like tofu or quinoa. High-fat foods aggravate acid reflux symptoms.
Sample Meal Plan
It is often difficult to navigate which foods are OK to eat and which foods to avoid with acid reflux. While it's important to speak with a doctor and registered dietitian before implementing a meal plan, this sample menu includes only acid reflux approved foods.
A breakfast of oatmeal with milk and fresh fruit is high in whole grains and fiber. A sample lunch is a chicken or turkey sandwich on whole-wheat bread with an apple. Whole-wheat crackers and cheese make a great afternoon snack. For dinner, try choosing a low-fat protein, such as chicken or fish with a whole grain, like brown rice or quinoa, and a vegetable of your choice.
Lifestyle choices contribute to acid reflux, and these lifestyle changes may reduce symptoms. If overweight, lose weight to decrease acid reflux. Avoid smoking. Do not wear tight-fitting clothing after a meal. Sit upright and do not participate in any vigorous activity immediately after a meal. Do not eat large meals three to four hours before lying down. Avoid large meals consisting of fatty foods.