fbpx
👋 Important News! CoughPro has moved to a subscription model. Learn more here

GERD Diet: Food to Manage Acid Reflux

Mikaela Millan

|

April 10, 2023
CoughPro is not a medical product. It is a wellness app intended only for users to obtain a better understanding of their cough. It is not intended to diagnose, monitor, or treat any illness.

We at Hyfe, Inc., are a company devoted to working on tools to better understand the importance of cough. It is Hyfe’s intention in the future to seek regulatory approval for medical products that analyze cough in order that they may be used to diagnose, monitor, and facilitate better treatment of respiratory illnesses.

A woman suffering from GERD, holding her stomach

Experiencing heartburn or acid reflux occasionally is completely normal. However, having this same experience every time you eat might be a sign of a more serious condition. Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) is a chronic condition wherein stomach acid flows back up the esophagus((Antunes, C., Aleem, A., & Curtis, A. (2022). Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease. StatPearls (Internet). Retrieved 6th April 2023 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK441938/)). This then leads to heartburn, an uncomfortable burning sensation felt in the chest that can rise up to the neck and make you cough. While it can negatively impact day-to-day life, thankfully there are several changes you can make to your diet that can effectively manage the symptoms of GERD. Here's how a GERD diet can look like.

What Can Trigger GERD Symptoms?

GERD can be compounded by several factors((National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease. (2020. Eating, Diet, & Nutrition for GER & GERD. Retrieved 6th April 2023 from https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/acid-reflux-ger-gerd-adults/eating-diet-nutrition)). Pregnancy, smoking, and being overweight or obese can increase your risk of GERD. Some medications can also worsen symptoms of GERD, such as:

  • Benzodiazepines or sedatives (e.g. Xanax)
  • Calcium channel blockers used to treat hypertension (e.g. Norvasc)
  • Anti-asthma medications
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) (e.g. aspirin or Toradol)
  • Tricyclic antidepressants (e.g. Elavil)

It is important to have a conversation with your healthcare provider regarding the factors that increase the risk of GERD. While some of these cannot be modified, such as your age, sex, or race, other lifestyle factors such as diet, exercise, smoking, and alcohol cessation can be altered to manage the symptoms of GERD. Your doctor may also recommend alternative medications if your current ones compound your symptoms. 

To determine your triggers, track GERD symptoms (dry cough, bloating, burping, sore throat, nausea, vomiting, etc.).

  • When do symptoms appear during the day?
  • What have you been doing before that (eating, drinking, smoking, etc.)?
  • If you have been eating - what foods and when?

By answering these questions, you'll be able to determine which behaviors/foods trigger your GERD.

What Foods Make GERD Worse?

Being a condition affecting the esophagus and stomach, your diet ultimately plays a huge role in the occurrence of GERD. Here are just some of the foods that can trigger heartburn and ones you may want to avoid((Gupta, Ekta. (2022). GERD Diet: Foods That Help With Acid Reflux (Heartburn). Retrieved 6th April 2023 from https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/gerd-diet-foods-that-help-with-acid-reflux-heartburn)):

  • Fried food
  • Fast food
  • Pizza
  • Potato chips and processed snacks
  • Chili powder and pepper
  • Fatty meats, like bacon and sausage
  • Cheese
  • Tomato based sauces
  • Citrus fruits
  • Chocolate
  • Peppermint
  • Carbonated beverage
  • Alcoholic drinks

While it may initially be difficult to eliminate all these foods from your diet, being deliberate and consistent are key factors in the effective management of GERD. Eating these in moderation, as opposed to complete elimination, may also contribute to greater success. 

Good Foods for Managing GERD – What Does a Good GERD Diet Look Like?

A healthy diet can work wonders to lessen heartburn associated with GERD. Here are some of the best foods to eat to manage GERD((Gupta, Ekta. (2022). GERD Diet: Foods That Help With Acid Reflux (Heartburn). Retrieved 6th April 2023 from https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/gerd-diet-foods-that-help-with-acid-reflux-heartburn)):

Fiber-Rich Foods

Fiber helps you feel full longer, which lessens the chances of overeating and, ultimately, heartburn. High-fiber foods include whole grains, root vegetables, and green vegetables. Oatmeal, couscous, and brown rice are good examples of whole grains. Root vegetables, like sweet potatoes, carrots, and beets, are rich sources of fiber. Lastly, asparagus, broccoli, and green beans also are great to load up on. 

Alkaline Foods

The acidity in the stomach is very high, so counter that with alkaline food such as bananas, melons, cauliflower, fennel, and nuts. By offsetting the acidity in the stomach, you also decrease the occurrence of heartburn.

Water-Rich Foods

Fruits and vegetables that contain a high amount of water can help dilute the acidity in the stomach. Celery, cucumber, lettuce, watermelon, broth-based soups, and herbal tea are all great sources of water to help calm an aggravated stomach. 

Other helpful tips include choosing baked, broiled, or grilled food over fried and fatty ones((University Hospitals. (2014). The Best and Worst Food for Acid Reflux. Retrieved 6th April 2023 from https://www.uhhospitals.org/blog/articles/2014/04/best-and-worst-foods-for-acid-reflux)). Opt for fruits to satisfy your sweet cravings rather than chocolate or sweets. Steep ginger in your tea or munch on dried ginger to tame any unrest in your stomach. 

Healthier Fats

While fat is a vital nutrient that provides the body with energy and supports healthy bodily functions, not all fats are equal. Saturated fats, commonly found in meat and dairy, as well as trans fats present in processed foods, margarine, and shortenings, should be avoided or limited. Instead, consider replacing them with unsaturated fats from plant-based sources or fish, in moderation. Here are some examples of healthier fats:

  • Monounsaturated fats These can be found in oils like olive, sesame, canola, and sunflower, as well as avocados, peanuts and peanut butter, and various nuts and seeds.
  • Polyunsaturated fats These include oils such as safflower, soybean, corn, flaxseed, walnut, soybeans, and tofu, and fatty fish like salmon and trout.

Tips for Managing GERD Through Diet

While a healthy diet cannot be stressed enough in the management of GERD, making a few simple but effective modifications to your lifestyle can positively increase your chances of success. Here are some diet and lifestyle changes you can make to reduce heartburn((WebMD Editorial Contributors. (2022). GERD. Retrieved 6th April 2023 from https://www.webmd.com/heartburn-gerd/guide/reflux-disease-gerd-1#091e9c5e80007c47-3-8)): 

  • Avoid food triggers, like the ones previously mentioned – These can cause relaxation of the lower esophageal sphincter and also irritate the lining of the esophagus
  • Eat smaller servings for dinner, 2-3 hours before bedtime – This allows the acid in your stomach to go down and for it to empty, making for a more comfortable sleep
  • Eat slowly and chew food thoroughly to lessen overeating
  • Quit smoking and drinking alcohol – These not only weaken the lower esophageal sphincter but can also irritate the esophageal lining
  • Elevate your head with pillows – This allows gravity to lessen the reflux of food back up the esophagus
  • Maintain a healthy weight – The symptoms of GERD tend to worsen with increased weight and obesity
  • Wear loose clothes to avoid pressure on your belly.
  • Try home remedies – There are several home remedies people swear by and they include nonfat milk, ginger tea, apple cider vinegar mixed with warm water and drank with meals, and lemon mixed with warm water and honey.

This is definitely not an exhaustive list, but the suggestions mentioned here have been found to effectively improve the chances of success in managing GERD. 

An Example of a GERD Diet Plan

Here's an example of a GERD diet plan containing 5 meals over the course of 3 days.

Note that this is just an example and may not suit your specific situation. GERD triggers vary from person to person and this meal plan does not address the unique needs of an individual. Additionally, this meal plan does not address other health conditions you may have.

For personalized dietary recommendations, consult a healthcare provider or registered dietitian.

Meal TimeDay 1Day 2Day 3
BreakfastSteel-cut oats with sliced banana, walnuts, and cinnamonScrambled eggs with sautéed spinach and whole wheat toastGreek yogurt with mixed berries, chopped nuts, and honey
SnackApple slices with almond butterCarrot sticks with hummusHard-boiled egg with a handful of grapes
LunchGrilled chicken breast with mixed greens, cucumber, and avocadoTurkey and vegetable stir-fry with brown riceBaked sweet potato with black beans, salsa, and Greek yogurt
SnackRoasted almonds with dried apricotsLow-fat Greek yogurt with sliced strawberriesCelery sticks with almond butter
DinnerBaked salmon with roasted asparagus and quinoa saladGrilled chicken breast with roasted vegetables and quinoaVegetarian chili with mixed vegetables and brown rice

You can put together your own 7-day GERD diet plan, or a even a monthly diet plan by combining foods that don't trigger your reflux.

What Is the Main Cause of GERD?

To understand GERD, we first need to understand how the esophagus and stomach are related to each other. The lower esophageal sphincter at the end of the esophagus is a smooth muscle that usually remains contracted to make sure that food from the stomach does not flow backward, like a one-way valve. In healthy individuals, this sphincter relaxes just to let food pass through then contracts again to maintain a high-pressure zone. This makes sure that food flows in only one direction: toward the stomach. 

Relaxation of the Esophageal Sphincter

However, people with GERD may have frequent relaxation of the esophageal sphincter, causing the backward flow of gastric stomach acid up the esophagus((Antunes, C., Aleem, A., & Curtis, A. (2022). Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease. StatPearls (Internet). Retrieved 6th April 2023 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK441938/)). The exact reason why this happens is not yet fully understood, but the weakness of the lower esophageal sphincter accounts for about 48-73% of GERD symptoms((Antunes, C., Aleem, A., & Curtis, A. (2022). Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease. StatPearls (Internet). Retrieved 6th April 2023 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK441938/)). 

Hiatal Hernia

A hiatal hernia can als contribute to the occurrence of GERD((National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease. (2020. Eating, Diet, & Nutrition for GER & GERD. Retrieved 6th April 2023 from https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/acid-reflux-ger-gerd-adults/eating-diet-nutrition)). This is a condition wherein an opening in the diaphragm, the muscle that separates the chest from the abdomen, allows the upper part of the stomach to enter the chest cavity. 

Defective Esophageal Peristalsis

Another mechanism that contributes to the presence of GERD is defective esophageal peristalsis((Antunes, C., Aleem, A., & Curtis, A. (2022). Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease. StatPearls (Internet). Retrieved 6th April 2023 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK441938/)). Peristalsis is the squeezing movement of the esophagus that ensures that the food from the mouth flows in one direction down the esophagus into the stomach. When this is defective, it not only permits the contents of the stomach to move backward and enter the esophagus but also contributes to damage to the esophagus lining. Unlike the stomach, which is well equipped to handle highly acidic contents, the lining of the esophagus, being a passageway of food, is not suited for this. 

Conclusion

A healthy diet and lifestyle modifications are the cornerstone of management in GERD. While there are options for medications such as proton pump inhibitors and antacids, nothing beats a well-rounded diet, regular exercise, adequate sleep, and good hydration. Medication and surgery may be options for those not responsive to conservative measures. Hopefully, the incorporation of the suggested foods into your diet as well as the lifestyle recommendations improves your GERD symptoms. For personalized dietary recommendations, consult a healthcare provider or registered dietitian.

Your Cough Matters

4.9
Based on our results in Google Play & App Store
  • Excellent, insightful
    By dust mite dan - Apr 7, 2023 - App Store
    This app is easy to use, aesthetically pleasing and has provided me with useful information about my cough and disease patterns that have improved my overall health!

    Try CoughPro for Free
  • Great app!
    by Imtfx0019 — Dec 6, 2022 - App Store
    Impressed with how well it detected my coughs, even very slight ones.
    Try CoughPro for Free
  • App is Great!
    by HBert Quach — Jan 22, 2023, - Google Play
    App is great at tracking cough when little ones are sick. I treat it as a early warning indicator before the cold gets back. Customer service is awesome, they actually respond to all my questions.
    Try CoughPro for Free
  • Great Experience
    by Christi Hammock — Mar 7, 2023, - Google Play

    I had an issue logging into the new app but I contacted the support team and they were awesome in helping me figure out the issue. It turned out to be a technical issue which they resolved very quickly and I was kept in the loop on the status from start to finish. This app is really helpful when talking to my doctor too..
    Try CoughPro for Free
  • Impressive app
    By KayakTina - Apr 7, 2023 - App Store
    "The app accurately is recording my coughs with excellent ways to review the results. I can add notes to help me identify patterns or have accurate information for my physicians. I’ve hoped for an app like this for years to help me accurately track the amount of coughing I’m doing"
    Try CoughPro for Free
  • Accurate count of coughs
    by Beardonna — Mar 8, 2023 - App Store

    Just installed the app. Very accurate measuring coughs so far! Cannot wait to see how much coughing I do while sleeping. I'll have a better picture to discuss with my physician at my next visit.

    Try CoughPro for Free

Recent Posts

CoughPro-new-logo
© 2024 All Rights Reserved.
linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram