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.
- Chocolate —Chocolate has a chemical that can cause the muscle between your esophagus and stomach to relax, allowing stomach acid into your esophagus.
- 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.
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.
- Reviewer: Dianne Scheinberg Rishikof MS, RD, LDN
- Review Date: 03/2013 -
- Update Date: 03/15/2013 -