What Is a GERD Diet?

A GERD diet is designed to reduce the symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). GERD occurs when stomach acid flows back into the esophagus. Symptoms of GERD include:

  • Burning feeling that starts in the lower chest and moves up the throat
  • Sour or bitter taste in the throat
  • Pain that increases with bending over or lying down
  • Feeling that food is coming back up

Why Should I Follow a GERD Diet?

Following a GERD diet can help you manage the symptoms of GERD. Changes to your diet are usually included along with other lifestyle changes and medications. If reflux is not treated, it can cause damage to your esophagus.

Eating Guide for a GERD Diet

It can be easy to make changes to your diet to treat GERD. There are 2 main categories to consider: How you eat and what you eat.

How You Eat

Making these simple changes can help reduce your GERD symptoms:

  • Avoid large meals. Eating a large amount of food at one time puts more pressure on the muscle between your esophagus and stomach.
  • Stay upright during and after meals. Avoid slouching or lying down during meals. Sitting upright at a table rather than slouching on the couch can keep stomach acid down.
  • Avoid eating within 3 hours of bedtime. Lying down with a full stomach can make it easier for stomach acid to flow into your esophagus.
  • Pace yourself during meals. Eating too quickly can make GERD symptoms worse.
  • Eat in a calm, relaxed place. Eating in a relaxed environment may be helpful.

What You Eat

Certain foods may trigger your GERD symptoms or make them worse. You may want to try keeping a food diary. Keep track of what you eat, when you eat, and your symptoms for 1-2 weeks. This may help you make connections between certain foods and GERD symptoms.

Common triggers include:

  • High-fat foods and fried foods —These foods cause your stomach to empty more slowly, so there is more time for stomach acid to flow into the esophagus. This includes 2% milk and foods many know as healthy, such as nuts and nut butters.
  • Spicy foods, peppers —The chemical that gives peppers their heat (capsicum) increases stomach acid production.
  • Onions
  • Chocolate —Chocolate has a chemical that can cause the muscle between your esophagus and stomach to relax, allowing stomach acid into your esophagus.
  • Peppermint
  • Citrus fruits and juices —These acidic fruits are common triggers for GERD.
  • Tomatoes (and tomato-based foods, like pasta sauce and chili)
  • Alcohol —Alcohol stimulates stomach acid production, which can make GERD symptoms worse.
  • Coffee (with or without caffeine)
  • Carbonated drinks

When you know what foods trigger your GERD symptoms, it is best to avoid eating them. Instead, eat foods that do not lead to symptoms. Here is a sample menu that shows how you can eat a variety of foods without making your GERD worse.

Breakfast Lunch Snack Dinner
Apple Juice (1/2 cup [118 milliliters (mL)]) Whole-grain cereal (3/4 cup [177 mL]) Banana (1/2) Whole-wheat toast (2 slices) Jelly or jam (2 tablespoons [29 g]) Skim milk (1 cup [237 mL]) Tea Vegetable soup (1 cup [237 mL]) Crackers (4) Lean beef patty (3 ounces [86 g]) Hamburger bun Reduced-calorie mayonnaise (1 tablespoon [14 g]) Mustard (1 tablespoon [14 g]) Lettuce Fresh fruit salad (no citrus) (1/2 cup [114 g]) Graham crackers (4) Skim milk (1 cup [237 mL]) Green salad (4 ounces [114 g]) Vinegar and oil dressing (1 tablespoon [15 mL] ) Broiled skinless chicken breast (3 ounces [85 g]) Herbed brown rice (1/2 cup [114 g]) Steamed broccoli (1/2 cup [114 g]) Whole-grain roll Low-fat frozen yogurt (1/2 cup [114 g]) Medium apple
Tip: Skipping coffee at breakfast can decrease stomach acid. You may want to try tea instead. Tip: Skip the tomatoes and onions on your burger to decrease stomach acid. Tip: Stick to low-fat dairy products. Tip: Choose low-fat meats, like skinless chicken breasts.

Other Ways to Control GERD

In addition to changing the way you eat by avoiding trigger foods, these steps may help keep your GERD symptoms away:

  • If you smoke, talk to your doctor about ways to quit.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight or obese can make GERD symptoms worse.
  • Avoid clothing that is tight in the abdominal area.
  • Sleep with your head elevated.
  • Chew non-mint gum. Chewing gum will increase saliva production and cut down on stomach acid.

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