Try This Nutritionist Recommended Diet for Acid Reflux

Acid reflux,is a fairly common condition that  can cause discomfort, belching and more. Learn how to avoid and treat acid reflux using a few diet changes! Lauren Lehmkuhl

What is Acid Reflux? 

Acid reflux, also known as heartburn or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), is a condition that can cause discomfort, belching, or a burning sensation in the chest after eating. It is a fairly common condition that occurs when the muscle that allows food to pass through to the stomach, also known as the esophageal sphincter, becomes relaxed and allowing food to come back up through the opening. This can lead to irritation of the esophagus and is generally a feeling most people want to avoid! 

Fortunately, acid reflux can be reduced and even prevented through targeted nutrition. As is with most health conditions, diet plays a big part so let’s take a look at some foods that can perpetuate the problem as well as a quality diet for acid reflux!

What foods can cause acid reflux? 

There are many foods that can cause symptoms of acid reflux, and not shockingly - most of which probably shouldn’t be in your diet too much anyways. If a food doesn’t seem healthy, it’s likely that it could contribute to acid reflux.

Certain foods, especially acidic and fatty ones, cause the esophageal sphincter to relax and delay gastric emptying, which allows food to sit longer in the stomach and causes more of a chance for it, and stomach acid, to come back up your esophagus. 

These foods include:

  • Most fast foods
  • Processed foods such as chips
  • Fried foods
  • Fatty meats 
  • Dairy products
  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine 
  • Chili powder and spices
  • Carbonated beverages

It’s not necessary to completely eliminate all of these foods, but limiting them will be helpful. Try to avoid eating them later in the evening, as lying down after eating can make it easier for reflux to occur. If you do choose to eat some of these foods, aim to have them in small amounts. So yes, this may mean avoiding having 3 slices of pizza in one sitting. Try 1 slice instead with a side salad! 

What is a Diet for Acid Reflux? 

So now that we know what not to eat, what should we eat in a diet for acid reflux? Alkalizing, fiber-rich, and watery foods will all be your friend. Luckily, there’s a lot of delicious foods that you can stock your kitchen with. Let’s talk about what those are! 

Balance your pH with Alkalizing Foods 

Most plant-based foods are alkalizing which means they help increase your body’s pH. Our body’s ideal pH balance is around 7, which is a neutral pH. Consuming acidic foods, like the ones listed above, can lower your pH and be a contributing factor to acid reflux! 

Aim to make the majority of your diet plant-based. This doesn’t mean avoid all meats and animal products, but just keep in mind that these do lower your pH. So, it’s better to include more fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains in your diet to balance out your pH into a neutral state and help avoid heartburn! 

Want to enjoy a steak, but worried about acid reflux? Choose a smaller and leaner cut and fill up the rest of your plate with vegetables and legumes! 

Fiber is Your Friend 

Another amazing aspect of plant-based foods is that they are often packed with fiber - which is not only one of the most important components of a healthy diet in general but is also essential for reducing acid reflux. This is because fiber causes you to feel fuller quicker, preventing overeating which can lead to acid reflux.

Vegetables, especially cruciferous ones like broccoli, cauliflower, and brussels sprouts are nutrient packed and full of fiber. Root vegetables, like carrots, beets, turnips, and sweet potatoes are also incredible fiber-rich options. Load up on your veggies!

Whole grains, like oats, brown rice, quinoa and barley are all great foods that provide fiber and reduce the acidic load. They aid digestion to help get things moving and absorb stomach acid, which reduces the risk of heartburn. Just remember to avoid refined white flour products, as these are stripped of fiber and can contribute to acid reflux. 


Eat Wet Foods 

Not only are vegetables alkalizing and fiber-rich, many are water-dense, which can help dilute stomach acid. This is another essential part of a diet for acid reflux, and so it’s helpful to include veggies like lettuce, cucumbers, and celery into your daily eating habits. 

Some other watery foods to include in a diet for acid reflux are fruits like watermelon and berries. Try to avoid too much citrus, as this can be triggering. 

Other Considerations for a Diet for Acid Reflux 

You might be wondering, what about fats? While it’s true that fats can be triggering for acid reflux because they delay gastric emptying, it’s not necessary to avoid them completely. Instead reduce the amount of saturated fats that you eat from foods like meat, dairy, and processed foods, while increasing  the amount of healthy unsaturated and polyunsaturated fats like olives, olive oil, avocados, nuts, nut butter, seeds, eggs, and fatty fish! Small portions of these unsaturated and polyunsaturated foods can make a big impact. Try pairing these foods with fiber-rich foods as well to help with smooth digestion. 

When it comes to protein, choose leaner options when possible. If you do include meat and dairy in your diet, aim for options with lower fat content. This may look like poultry and fish, or swapping out hard cheeses for softer ones. And remember, plants have protein too! Some great plant protein sources include soy products like tofu (aim for non-GMO organic options), nuts, legumes like beans and chickpeas, and peas! 

Remedies for When the Heart Burn Hits

When you're feeling tempted to reach for antacids, look in your kitchen cabinet or refrigerator instead. Long term antacid use can cause a lot of unwanted health problems, like reducing absorption of some nutrients and leaving you more susceptible to certain bacterial infections. Rather, let’s take a look at some helpful home remedies!

Lemon Water

Although adding something that’s acidic to your water may seem counterintuitive, lemon juice actually has an alkalizing effect on the body and can help lower your stomach’s acidity when it’s added to water. For more digestive support, use soothing warm water and add a little honey! 

Milk 

While full-fat milk may aggravate symptoms, having some skim milk or low-fat yogurt on hand can temporarily neutralize stomach acid to provide relief. 

Ginger

Ginger has been long renowned as a digestive aid and it helps with heartburn as well! It’s alkaline and anti-inflammatory properties help ease irritation and lower stomach acidity. 


Apple Cider Vinegar 

Although evidence appears to be mostly anecdotal, many people find relief by adding a teaspoon of ACV to their water. It is acidic in nature, so make sure you don’t use too much! 


The Bottom Line 

Now that you know how to build a diet for acid reflux, you can stock your kitchen for success!

If most of your kitchen is filled with processed, packaged foods, you may want to consider how you can make a switch toward more fresh foods. Plant-based, low fat, fiber-rich foods are your best friends! 

Need help with choosing foods and building your own diet for acid reflux? Chat with one of our Vessel nutritionists today!