Health experts say acid reflux is a symptom of GERD or gastroesophageal reflux disease. This is a condition where the acid from the stomach flows back up to the esophagus. But this only happens when the lower esophageal sphincter or LES, which is supposed to close to prevent food from moving up, is weakened and unable to function properly.
LES is a ring of muscles that sit at the bottom of the esophagus. A healthy LES relaxes to allow food to travel to the stomach. But when it’s unhealthy, it relaxes too much thereby allowing stomach acid to come up to the esophagus. The stomach’s lining is protected from stomach acid, but the esophagus is not. Once the acid reaches the esophagus, it causes a burning sensation known as heartburn.
Though acid reflux can be reversed and treated with medication, eating the right food and avoiding food triggers are the best ways to reduce the symptoms and discomfort. If you’re among the 20 percent of American adults who suffered from GERD, you may need to follow this food guide:
9 Best Foods to Eat to Reduce Symptoms of Acid Reflux
Vegetables such as leafy greens, broccoli, cauliflower, potatoes, and cucumbers are high in alkaline levels and low in fat and sugar content. Eating these superfoods help lower stomach acidity.
Oatmeal is a famous food for breakfast because it’s a whole grain that contains fiber and other nutrients. Besides, oatmeal is also a great acid absorbing food that can give ease to your acidic stomach. Fiber makes you feel full longer. People with acid reflux are advised to avoid filling their stomach with too much food since the food tends to regurgitate into the esophagus. When you’re feeling full, you also reduce cravings for food that may trigger acid reflux.
3. Whole grains
Like oatmeal, other whole grain foods such as barley, buckwheat, brown rice, and whole wheat bread also help in reducing your stomach acid symptoms.
This ayurvedic root is popular for its anti-inflammatory properties making it one of the best foods to treat heartburn and other stomach gas problems. You can add this spice to soup, smoothies and other recipes. Ginger is also available in powder form to be used as ginger tea. If you want it a bit stronger, you can add ginger root to boiling water and drink the concoction once it cools down.
5. Nonacidic fruits
Most citrus fruits are acidic. When you have acid reflux, the best fruits to treat your symptoms include bananas, apples, pears, and melons. These fruits are filled with fiber, which has a soothing effect on the stomach. Although lemons belong to the citrus family, squeezing a slice of this fruit into an eight-ounce glass of water can help reduce symptoms. This mixture can have an alkalizing effect that can help neutralize stomach acidity. Lemon is also an antioxidant that can protect your body from the ill effects of acid reflux.
6. Healthy fats
Saturated fats and trans fats are high in acid content and can worsen your symptoms of acid reflux. Instead of consuming these bad fats, replace them with healthy fats such as avocados, walnuts, flaxseeds, olive oil, sesame oil, and sunflower seeds or sunflower oil. These foods help keep your body healthy while reducing your symptoms.
7. Egg whites
If an egg is part of your breakfast menu, you better get rid of the egg yolk, which is high in fat, and go for the egg whites while healing your acid reflux symptoms.
8. Lean meats
Meat takes a long time to digest. This means it will stay in the stomach longer and put more strain on the LES. However, your body needs protein for proper functioning. Sticking to lean meats would be safer for your stomach. The best sources are chicken and turkey.
Different kinds of seafood are also low in fat content making them safe for your stomach while reducing symptoms.
9 Worst Foods that Can Trigger Acid Reflux
1. Fatty foods
Since reflux is triggered by the high amount of acid from the foods you eat, it’s sensible, then, to avoid high acid content foods. These include fried and fatty foods, trans fat foods and saturated fats. The most common are bacon, ham, lard, pork, and beef.
2. Full-fat dairy products
Dairy products high in acid content include whole milk, butter, sour cream, and regular cheese.
3. Snacks and desserts
Avoid snacking on foods that increase your triggers like ice cream, potato chips, and other junk foods.
The foods loaded with cream sauces, gravies, and creamy dressings on your salads are common triggers too. It’s best to avoid them.
5. Tomatoes and citrus fruits
Tomatoes, oranges, grapefruits, and other citrus fruits that are rich in vitamin C but have high acid content can enhance your symptoms. Shy away from these fruits in the meantime.
Chocolate contains the substance methylxanthine, which has a relaxing effect on the smooth muscles of the LES. As such, chocolates can increase your symptoms
7. Spicy foods
Like chocolates, spicy foods such as garlic and onions contain substances that can relax the LES. Spicy foods can also irritate the esophagus that’s already inflamed.
Skip drinking your morning coffee while having reflux symptoms. This is because caffeine can relax the LES, which can trigger your acid reflux symptoms.
Alcohol is the worst drink you should avoid when you’re having acid reflux symptoms because of its double effect. First, alcohol relaxes the LES muscles, second, it stimulates the stomach to produce more acid.
Aside from modifying your diet and nutrition while having acid reflux symptoms, there are lots of things you can do to minimize the discomfort. These include the following:
♦ Wearing loose clothing to avoid squeezing and putting more pressure on your stomach
♦ Eating smaller meals throughout the day to prevent expanding the stomach too much
♦ Eating two hours before bedtime
♦ Avoiding late night snacking
♦ Checking in with your GP if symptoms last for more than two weeks and become more severe