• GERD Diet

    (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease Diet; Heartburn Diet)

    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 medicines. 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 two 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 three 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. Eating in a relaxed environment may also 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.
    • 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
    Once 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 aggravating your GERD.
    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)
    Soft margarine (1 teaspoon [5 grams (g)])
    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
    Soft margarine (1 teaspoon [5 g])
    Low-fat frozen yogurt (1/2 cup [114 g])
    Medium apple
    Tip: Skipping the 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 at bay:
    • Stop smoking.
    • 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.

    RESOURCES

    American Gastroenterological Association http://www.gastro.org/

    National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases http://www.niddk.nih.gov/

    CANADIAN RESOURCES

    Canadian Institute for Health Information http://www.cihi.ca/

    Health Canada http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/

    References

    Alan R. Lifestyle changes to manage gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)/heartburn. EBSCO Health Library website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/healthLibrary/ . Updated September 2010. Accessed June 13, 2011.

    Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/ . Updated May 2011. Accessed June 13, 2011.

    Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). KidsHealth.org website. Available at: http://kidshealth.org/parent/system/surgical/gerd%5Freflux.html . Updated June 2008. Accessed June 13, 2011.

    The GERD diet (gastroesophageal reflux disease). University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign: McKinley Health Center website. Available at: http://www.mckinley.illinois.edu/handouts/gerd%5Fdiet.html . Updated April 2008. Accessed June 13, 2011.

    Kahrilas PJ. Clinical practice. Gastroesophageal reflux disease. N Engl J Med . 2008 Oct 16;359(16):1700-1707.

    Neff DM. Discharge instructions for gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). EBSCO Patient Education Reference Center website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/pointOfCare/perc-about . Updated September 2010. Accessed June 13, 2011.

    Oliver K, et al. Diet and lifestyle as trigger factors for the onset of heartburn. Nurs Stand . 2011 May 11-17; 25(36): 44-48.

    Treatment of GERD. International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders website. Available at: http://www.aboutgerd.org/site/about-gerd/treatment/ . Updated February 2010. Accessed June 13, 2011.

    Wood D. Heartburn—overview. EBSCO Health Library website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/healthLibrary/ .Updated March 2011. Accessed June 13, 2011.

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