Acid reflux occurs when bile or stomach acid backflows into the oesophagus and irritates it. It is a chronic disease which affects the lining of the oesophagus. The weakening of the lower oesophagal sphincter (LES) can be one of the reasons for acid reflux.
LES usually contracts to stop food from passing from the stomach. If that does not function properly, the partially digested food returns. Although it occurs frequently, it may also result in unfavourable sensations like heartburn. Heartburn and acid reflux may indicate Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) if they occur more than twice a week.
Eating healthy is the solution to most health problems, including acid reflux. An acid reflux diet can help prevent or reduce acid reflux. The diet aims to combat unpleasant symptoms of acid reflux through foods naturally low in fat and sugar, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nonfat dairy, and fish.
The Acid Reflux Diet: An Introduction
The acid reflux diet can be defined as a diet that aids in relieving the discomfort from chronic acid reflux known as GERD or gastroesophageal reflux diseases.
Research shows that GERD, a severe acid reflux condition, can be controlled by eating the right foods. People believe the diet can help lower the impact of uncomfortable symptoms like heartburn, regurgitation, hoarseness or throat pain.
Your diet affects how much acid your stomach produces. The acid reflux diet offers foods which are fibre-rich and low-fat. People should eliminate spicy, tangy or acidic foods from their daily consumption. It will help them identify trigger foods and motivate them to stay away from them for longer periods.
Causes of Acid Reflux
Acid reflux disease happens due to a stomach abnormality called hiatal hernia. When the upper part of the stomach & LES start moving above the diaphragm, a muscle that separates your stomach from the chest protrudes.
It is usually the diaphragm which keeps the acid inside the abdomen. Still, as per studies, if a hiatal hernia attacks someone, the acid can move into your oesophagus and cause symptoms of acid reflux disease.
There are other reasons behind the acid reflux disease, like:
- After consuming spicy or fatty foods including citrus, tomato, chocolates, mint or garlic.
- If one drinks beverages like excess alcohol, coffee, tea or other carbonated drinks.
- If a person has too large a meal and lies down right after having food
- They lie on one’s back or bend over the waist if they have a meal.
- Any blood pressure medications or muscle relaxers or aspirin, ibuprofen etc.
- Smoking or being pregnant.
- If he is obese or overweight
- If one eats snacks close to bedtime
The common symptoms of acid reflux include:
Heartburn: It refers to a burning sensation that travels from a person’s abdomen, stomach or chest and up to the throat region.
Regurgitation: It refers to a bitter or sour-tasting acid in your throat or mouth.
- Wheezing or dry cough
- Weight loss for reasons unknown
- Dysphagia or the feeling of food stuck in your throat
- Vomit with bloodstains
Worst Foods for Acid Reflux
Chocolate comprises cocoa, caffeine, and plant chemicals that trigger heartburn. Also, one should beware of a chemical in cocoa that relaxes the LES and makes it easier for the stomach’s contents to enter the oesophagus.
Peppermint is widely known for soothing an irritated bowel, but when it comes to treating acid reflux, it has a reverse effect. This relaxes the muscles for digestion, but as per studies, a relaxed LES or lower oesophagal sphincter starts leaking the stomach contents.
People already know that fatty foods make a person sluggish, and it is difficult to digest such foods, and when food stays around your stomach for a longer time, it reacts by producing more acid. Examples include fried foods like onion rings, prime ribs, bacon and dairy products.
According to research, spicy foods make acid reflux symptoms adverse. In addition, capsaicin (a compound in chilli) in spicy foods strains digestion and starts irritating the oesophagus with added burning sensations.
Acidic Foods and Beverages
Studies show acidic food is a primary trigger for acid reflux. The high acidic content of citrus fruits, juices, tomatoes, pineapple, and salad dressings is not ideal for an already acidic gastric environment.
Healthy Foods to Combat Acid Reflux
Overeating may contribute to acid reflux and heartburn.
Research shows fibrous foods like whole grains, root vegetables ( sweet potatoes, carrots and beets), and green vegetables (broccoli, beans) make you feel satiated, making you less likely to overeat.
Foods with a higher pH are alkaline and can help neutralise stomach acid or bile. Some examples are bananas, melon, cauliflower and nuts.
Consuming foods that have lots of water can dilute the stomach acid, and it also has a cooling effect on your stomach lining. In addition, it keeps you hydrated and neutralises the acidic effect. Food that is high in water contents is celery, cucumber, watermelon, herbal tea and broth-based soups.
Studies show skim or nonfat milk can temporarily buffer the stomach lining and acid to provide instant relief from heartburn. However, whole milk can aggravate acid reflux. So, it is essential to remember that milk comes in different varieties and has varying effects.
Low-fat yoghurt is also helpful in combating acid reflux because it has some soothing qualities and probiotics (good bacteria that improve digestion).
Apple Cider Vinegar
Many believe that apple cider vinegar helps acid reflux, but there isn’t enough research to prove it. However, one must never consume apple cider vinegar in its concentrated form because it is a strong acid that can worsen acid reflux and irritate the oesophagus. Instead, dilute one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in a glass of water.
The HealthifyMe Note
The acid reflux diet can be nutrient-rich because it prioritises lean proteins, alkaline and high-fibre foods, vegetables, nuts and seeds, beans, and legumes while avoiding many foods that can cause heartburn like spicy, fried, and citrus foods. The acid reflux diet is generally safe for all populations, but it’s advisable to speak with your doctor or a dietitian before switching to an acid reflux diet.
Benefits of the Acid Reflux Diet
Acid reflux diets often contain a lot of fibre, a lot of protein, and little fat. It includes abundant leafy greens, colourful veggies, low-fat proteins, and nutritious grains. Unlike some other diets, the acid reflux diet does not eliminate entire food groups. People can still consume acid-forming foods in moderation.
Support Weight Loss
The acid reflux diet may result in weight loss initially because it encourages avoiding processed foods and sugars while increasing the consumption of grains, fruits and vegetables.
As a result, the diet is lower-calorie than what most people are consuming. The acid reflux diet is similar to the Mediterranean diet but limits meat, dairy, and eggs, which is inherently good for weight loss.
Sustainability and Effectiveness
The acid reflux diet is the best diet that supports long-term weight maintenance. It includes excellent sources of fibre that may help absorb stomach acid. Acid reflux diets provide a wide range of food options and are simple to follow over time. Plus, the diet is not expensive to maintain.
Provides Energy and Improve Overall Health
People usually report feeling more energised after adhering to the acid reflux diet and making certain lifestyle modifications. Some people experience fewer gut problems and lose weight. All of this could result from cutting back on processed and junk foods rather than being linked to reduced acidity.
The HealthifyMe Note
People may experience a reduction in acid reflux symptoms when triggering substances, such as caffeine and spicy meals, are eliminated from their diet. Additionally, when someone reduces their food intake or eliminates fatty items from their diet, they benefit from weight loss, which could be pretty beneficial for those who are obese.
Potential Drawbacks of the Acid Reflux Diet
People may initially experience difficulty following an acid reflux diet because you need to limit foods that can worsen your reflux symptoms.
In addition, there are possibilities of missing out on essential nutrients. For example, you need to limit or avoid meat, dairy and eggs, all of which contain essential proteins, fatty acids, and amino acids.
Therefore, only follow this diet after consulting a dietician if you have acid reflux or heartburn; otherwise, it might adversely affect your health.
Body May Resist Changes
In the beginning, people might feel irritable or moody due to rapidly eliminating sugary foods from the diet. However, following a new diet plan takes time and effort, and people could feel a little weak if they drastically alter their routine. In addition, the body could resist change and not immediately accept it.
Valuable Tips to Deal with Acid Reflux
A holistic approach doesn’t propose one diet over another. People need to eat real food best suited for their body type. For example, eating a 100% acid reflux diet is not mandatory to maintain gastrointestinal health.
A good rule of thumb is that 20-40% of your diet should be acidic foods and 60-80% of more alkaline foods. As with everything that has to do with your health, moderation is the key.
Apart from the pros and cons mentioned above, there are some tips to deal with this situation better.
- You can chew gum to enhance saliva production and reduce acid in the oesophagus.
- When consuming alcohol, you should know how much alcohol the body can handle. If acid reflux symptoms trigger after a single drink, you should stop as it exceeds capacity.
- Always keep your backbone straight and maintain a good posture, especially while eating.
- Laying down for at least 2 hours after eating a meal will make you feel at ease. A person standing up and walking around after consuming a meal helps the gastric juices to flow in the correct path. It is also said to avoid going to bed instantly after dinner. Everyone can eat at different times but eating as early as 7 pm is advisable if one has acid reflux.
Making specific changes in your daily diet reduces your discomfort with acid reflux disease. The focus should be on creating a diet that comprises fruits, vegetables, proteins, carbohydrates, and healthy fats. If you cannot track what you are eating in a day, a food diary or journal can be helpful.
Some people might find that they have less pain, more energy, fewer acid reflux problems, and may have even lost weight on an acid reflux diet. Proper treatment for gastroesophageal disease starts with consulting healthcare professional.
An accurate diagnosis is mandatory as the disease will not go away without effort. Short-term remedies may cure short-term symptoms but, in the long run, can cause problems. Avoid that by taking care from the very beginning.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q. Can acid reflux be fixed with diet?
A. No diet will fix acid reflux symptoms permanently. But certain foods like fruits, vegetables, high-fibre foods, and drinking water may decrease symptoms by diluting the stomach acid. While the approach to neutralising stomach pH by acid reflux diet is generally healthy, there is little scientific evidence to support the benefits.
Q. What is a good diet plan for acid reflux?
A. You can include whole grains like oatmeal and brown rice in your diet, and go for root veggies like carrot, beet and sweet potatoes. You can also have asparagus, broccoli and green beans for acid reflux. But in the end, a good diet plan depends on your age, weight, body type, and severity of your acid reflux.
Q. What foods should someone with acid reflux avoid?
A. You should eliminate fried foods like pizza, potato chips and fatty meats like bacon and sausage from your diet. Avoid cheese, spicy foods, citrus fruits and bottled juices as well. These foods have high fat, which causes a burning sensation in the oesophagus lining. In addition, the acid reflux diet recommends reducing your intake of animal protein, white sugar, white flour, processed foods, and caffeine.
Q. What is a good breakfast for acid reflux?
A. Try whole grains like oatmeal and wheat for breakfast, which will keep you full and is an excellent source of fibre. Additionally, oats can easily absorb intestinal acid and minimise the symptoms of GERD. Focus on eating low-acid foods.
Q. Are bananas good for reflux?
A. The ripe bananas are low-acid fruits that help neutralise the stomach acid by forming a lining on the irritated oesophagal lining. Thus, it is suitable for acid reflux.
Q. Does water help acid reflux?
A. Water is neutral and has a pH of 7. So, drinking water helps balance the pH of acidic meals and thus aids in lowering the risk of acid reflux. Research also shows that drinking mineral water decreases the symptoms of acid reflux. But having a large meal and drinking water simultaneously can trigger acid reflux.
Q. How do you cure GERD permanently?
A. You can cure it permanently by consciously changing your lifestyle habits like drinking plenty of water, avoiding smoking, a regular workout and healthy meals on time. Additionally, while eating, eat your food thoroughly and chew it properly. Avoid spicy and fried foods to minimise the production level of acid reflux. Most importantly, consulting a health expert or dietician for guidance would be beneficial.
Q. What fruit is good for acid reflux?
A. The foods which work best for acid reflux include fruits low in acid content like cantaloupe, honeydew and watermelon. Plus, you must avoid consuming citrus fruits like lemon, oranges and pineapple, which trigger acid reflux.
Q. What foods trigger GERD?
A. Foods that trigger GERD include tomatoes, spicy foods, fatty or fried foods, coffee, soda and chocolates. Food type and eating habits also affect GERD, like eating late at night, consuming large meals and taking a particular medication.
Q. Is Apple good for acid reflux?
A. Apples are acidic, with a pH of 4. However, due to the presence of alkalising minerals like potassium, magnesium and calcium, they are said to relieve acid reflux symptoms. You can have half an apple after every meal to reduce the heartburn issue.