Hot wings, cheesy pizza, and juicy citrus fruits are delicious goodies most of us can’t resist. But for roughly 20% of American adults with GERD, these treats can lead to a sleepless night of pain. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a severe, chronic condition triggered by certain foods.

Treatment for GERD includes medication and lifestyle changes like weight loss. If you suffer from acid reflux and heartburn, learn how losing weight can reduce your symptoms!

What Is GERD?

Gastroesophageal reflux (GER) is a common ailment caused by stomach content rising into your esophagus. We often call it heartburn or acid reflux. Severe cases can also lead to other symptoms like:

  • Bloating
  • Flatulence
  • Stomach Pain
  • Chest pain
  • Regurgitation
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Sore throat
  • Coughing
  • Loss of voice
  • Sour taste

GERD is a severe and chronic form of GER with the same symptoms. Doctors may diagnose you with GERD if these signs show up more than twice a week. If left untreated, GERD can pose serious health complications.

The Connection Between GERD and Weight

One of the most significant studies connecting GERD and BMI has been replicated many times. This study found that overweight patients with a BMI of 25 to 30 were twice as likely to suffer from GERD.
Obese patients with a BMI greater than 30 were three times more likely to experience GERD! But the most surprising finding concerned patients in the normal BMI range. Even a narrow increase of a few pounds triggered GERD symptoms for these patients.

But don’t panic about losing weight if you fall into a normal BMI for your age, sex, and height. You should only consider weight loss if you’ve recently gained weight and noticed increased symptoms.
Experts aren’t sure how body weight affects GERD specifically. Many believe that excess weight can put pressure on your abdomen. This pressure increases the relaxation of your lower esophageal sphincter (LES), causing it to malfunction.

Others suggest that diet has a lot to do with it. The theory is that overweight individuals are more likely to eat a diet of high-fat, high-carbohydrate foods. This food group is a primary culprit in creating a perfect environment for GERD symptoms.

The GERD Diet

We know that obesity can cause numerous diseases and chronic conditions, including acid reflux. Therefore, weight loss can be beneficial if you’re overweight and struggling with GERD.
If you’re unsure about how to lose weight, a GERD-friendly diet can help! Focus on cutting out triggering foods and replacing them with better alternatives. Loosely following the Mediterranean diet can result in sustainable weight loss without triggering GERD.

Food to Avoid

Certain foods are notorious for initiating GERD symptoms. But not everyone reacts the same way to each food. Reduce these foods if your symptoms worsen when you eat them:

  • Spicy food
  • Citrus fruits
  • Fried, processed food
  • High-fat food
  • Sodas and carbonated beverages
  • Garlic and onions
  • Tomatoes and tomato-based foods
  • Mint

For many people with GERD, treats like chocolate, caffeine, and alcohol are off-limits. But research shows that others are less sensitive, so try an elimination diet to see how they influence you.


Food to Embrace


According to multiple studies, the Mediterranean diet is one of the best approaches for lowering weight and reducing GERD symptoms. One study found that those who followed a Mediterranean diet had a shocking 3.1 lower risk of GERD symptoms. If you want to test this yourself, structure your meals around these foods.


Vegetables and legumes are high in fiber and low in fat. Fill your plate with these delicious options:

  • Broccoli and cauliflower
  • Leafy greens like kale and spinach
  • Root vegetables like sweet potatoes and beets
  • Asparagus, green beans, and cucumbers
  • Lentils, chickpeas, and beans
  • Whole grains are also high-fiber options that can reduce stomach acid. A quarter of your plate should consist of:
  • Brown rice
  • Oatmeal
  • Whole-grain bread
  • Buckwheat
  • Barley
  • Healthy fats are the cornerstone of the Mediterranean diet. They help fill you up and keep you satisfied. Include some of these favorites:
  • Avocados
  • Fatty fish like salmon and tuna
  • Tofu and tofu-products
  • Olive oil
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Full-fat yogurt

Seafood wins over red meat on this diet! Fresh trout, shrimp, and mussels are excellent options. If you don’t like seafood, opt for lean protein like chicken, turkey, and eggs.

Some fruits like oranges and grapefruit are troublesome for people with GERD. Instead, snack on some low-acid fruit like:

  • Watermelon, canteloupe, and honeydew
  • Bananas
  • Coconuts
  • Dates and figs
  • Papaya
  • Berries
  • Nectarines and peaches

And even though citrus fruits aren’t the best option for GERD, their rinds are! Supplements that contain D-limonene sourced from citrus fruit are a great addition to your diet. These supplements act like antacids to reduce GERD symptoms.

Other Food-Related Lifestyle Changes

Following a GERD-friendly diet can significantly lessen painful symptoms. But there are a few more lifestyle changes you can make to speed up the process.


Maintain a healthy weight by eating several small meals each day. This approach can help you not overeat and avoid GERD symptoms. The more contents in the stomach, the higher the chances of acid reflux!


You should also avoid lying down for two to four hours after eating a meal. Keeping your body upright can lessen the risk of regurgitation and acid reflux. Follow the same guidelines for dinner time and avoid eating four hours before bed.


GERD-friendly supplements are an excellent addition to a clean diet and healthy lifestyle! Make sure you research the ingredient before you add one into your routine. Choose a company that values transparency, quality, and scientific evidence.


Finally, cigarettes and other tobacco products have consequential effects on your stomach. Your saliva contains bicarbonate which is essential for clearing acid in the esophagus. Tobacco reduces the efficacy of this process and increases the likelihood of GERD symptoms.


Manage GERD With Weight Loss


Living with GERD isn’t easy at best and excruciating at worst. Some of your favorite foods might result in painful acid reflux, heartburn, and bloating. But managing your symptoms is easy with a healthy, GERD-friendly diet and lifestyle changes.


Make Gerdli supplements a part of your comprehensive health plan. This all-natural alternative to antacids is the perfect addition to your new lifestyle. Shop Gerdli supplements or try out the monthly subscription plan!

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Dr. Minhas, M.D.

Board-certified internal medicine (ABIM)