Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a more severe form of acid reflux, which affects millions of people in the United States. It is estimated that 1 in every 5 American adults suffers from GERD, which can seriously impact quality of life.

Acid reflux occurs when the contents of the stomach move back up into the esophagus. If this action, known as acid regurgitation, occurs more than twice a week, a person may suffer from GERD.

If you suffer from GERD, it is important to understand which foods can aid or hinder this condition. In this blog post, we will highlight some of the foods that you should avoid if you have GERD. We will also highlight foods that can actually help acid reflux.

1. Tomatoes and Citrus Fruit

While there is no doubting the importance of fruits and vegetables in a healthy diet, there are a number of fruits that may cause (or even worsen) GERD symptoms. The main symptom of GERD is heartburn, along with vomiting, dry cough, bloating, sore throat, difficulty swallowing, burping, and hiccups.

It may help to eliminate tomatoes and certain other fruits (yes, tomatoes are a fruit!) from your diet if you have GERD. Some of these other fruits include oranges, limes, lemons, grapefruit, pineapple, tomato sauce, and salsa.

2. Spicy Foods

It shouldn’t come as a big surprise that spicy foods can trigger heartburn symptoms in many people. If you suffer from GERD, it is likely that you have experienced the negative impact of eating spicy foods.

Capsaicin, a chemical compound that works to make food spicy, may irritate parts of the esophagus, resulting in acid reflux. One related study found that hot and spicy stews are a common cause of GERD symptoms. Spicy foods to avoid include onions and garlic.

3. High Fat Foods

Research from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases shows that high fat meals and fried foods may increase a person’s risk for acid reflux symptoms. This is because fatty foods low pressure on the lower esophageal sphincter, while also delaying stomach emptying.

Therefore, if you suffer from GERD, it is recommended that you avoid certain high fat foods. These include:

  • Cheese
  • Whole milk
  • French friends
  • Potato Chips
  • High fat sour cream
  • Butter
  • Deep-friend onion rings
  • High far creamy salad dressings
  • Ice cream

You may also need to reduce or eliminate servings of high fat cuts of red meat, such as prime rib and marbled sirloin.

4. Beverages

It’s not only foods that can trigger symptoms in people with GERD. Certain beverages may also increase a person’s likeliness to experienced GERD-related symptoms.

For example, these beverages include citrus and tomato juices (as also noted above), tea, coffee, carbonated beverages, and alcohol.

Note that coffee may promote acid reflux symptoms, whether or not it contains caffeine. It’s also worth noting that not everyone with GERD is negatively affected by coffee; some people may tolerate it without any issues.

People with GERD will likely understand which beverages they are able to consume without issue and which trigger individual symptoms.

5. Chocolate

This will likely come as bad news for many people who suffer from GERD, given how delicious chocolate is. But the reality is that chocolate, specifically cocoa, has been shown to relax the smooth muscles in the lower esophageal sphincter and trigger symptoms of GERD.

This is because chocolate contains methylxanthine, as well as caffeine and theobromine, which may exacerbate symptoms of GERD. If you are a chocolate lover, it’s worth experimenting with eating it in moderation and recording whether or not eating it makes your symptoms worse or not.

Foods to Eat With GERD

While we have highlighted many foods (and beverages) that you should avoid if you have GERD, there are a number of foods that are known to be beneficial.

Vegetables are recommended, given that they are naturally low in sugar and fat. Some great options here include broccoli, green beans, cauliflower, asparagus, potatoes, cucumbers, and leafy greens. If you aren’t a fan of eating vegetables in general, putting them into smoothies is a great and super easy way to increase consumption.

Ginger is also known as a beneficial food for people with GERD. This is because it contains anti-inflammatory properties and is a natural treatment for heartburn as well as other gastrointestinal concerns. Grated ginger is a wonderful addition to smoothies and other recipes if you suffer from GERD.

Lean meats are also highly recommended. These include fish, turkey, chicken, and seafood, which are versatile and delicious when poached, baked, broiled, and grilled.

Above, we mentioned how citrus fruits are a common trigger of GERD symptoms. However, many other fruits are less likely to trigger common symptoms, such as apples, bananas, melons, and pears.

Other foods to try include oatmeal, egg whites, and healthy fats such as sunflower oil, olive oil, walnuts, avocados, sesame oil, and flaxseed.

Foods to Avoid (and Eat) if You Have GERD

If you suffer from GERD, it is important to find your triggers. It helps to keep a food diary and keep a note of what foods you eat, at what time of the day you eat, and what symptoms you experience as a result of eating these foods.

One of the best remedies for GERD, in addition to eating the above-recommended food options, is to take GerdLi. This is an effective and natural solution for GERD, which uses D-limonene. This is a compound derived from citrus fruit and is a great alternative for those taking anti-reflux prescription medications.

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Dr. Minhas, M.D.

Board-certified internal medicine (ABIM)

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