(Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease Diet; Heartburn Diet)
What Is a GERD?
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a long term problem with the stomach. Acids that normally sit in the stomach are able to escape up into the esophagus (throat). This causes a burning pain in the chest called heartburn. Over time these acids cause permanent damage and scarring in 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?
Your diet can directly affect the symptoms of GERD. Changes to the diet are a common part of overall treatment. If GERD is not managed, it can cause permanent damage to your esophagus.
Eating Guide for a GERD Diet
Changes in your diet can include food choices and eating habits.
How You Eat
Food moves down the throat and into the stomach. A muscular ring tightens to help keep the food in the stomach while it is digested. This ring is sometimes too weak to do its job properly or we may put too much pressure on it. Eating habits that can help reduce the pressure on this ring and decrease your GERD symptoms include:
- Avoid large meals. Large amounts of food puts extra pressure on the stomach and the ring.
- Stay upright during and after meals. Avoid slouching or lying down during meals. These positions put extra pressure on the stomach. Sitting upright at a table makes it easier for food to move down into the stomach and stay down.
- Avoid eating within 3 hours of bedtime. Being upright help food move down. When you lay down it is much easier for stomach acid to flow out of the stomach and into your throat. If you have to lay down, try propping your upper body up.
- Pace yourself during meals. Eating too quickly can make symptoms worse.
- Eat in a calm, relaxed place. Stress can make symptoms worse.
What You Eat
Certain foods may trigger your symptoms or make them worse. It may be different from person to person. 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 find what foods trigger your symptoms.
Common triggers include:
- High-fat foods and fried foods —Fats slow the emptying of food from your stomach. This leaves more time for stomach acid to flow into the esophagus. Even healthier but high fat foods like 2% milk, nuts, and nut butters can cause problems.
- Spicy foods, peppers —The chemical that gives peppers their heat increases stomach acid.
- Chocolate —Chocolate can relax the opening of the stomach. Stomach acid can then pass into the esophagus.
- Citrus fruits and juices
- Tomatoes and tomato-based foods, like pasta sauce and chili
- Alcohol —Alcohol stimulates stomach acid production.
- Coffee (with or without caffeine)
- Carbonated drinks
It is best to avoid foods that trigger your symptoms. Here is a sample menu that shows how you can still eat a variety of foods.
Apple Juice (1/2 cup [118 milliliters (mL)])
Whole-grain cereal (3/4 cup [177 mL])
Whole-wheat toast (2 slices)
Jelly or jam (2 tablespoons [29 g])
Skim milk (1 cup [237 mL])
Vegetable soup (1 cup
Lean beef patty (3 ounces [86 g])
Reduced-calorie mayonnaise (1 tablespoon [14 g])
Mustard (1 tablespoon [14 g])
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])
Low-fat frozen yogurt (1/2 cup [114 g])
|Tip: Coffee at breakfast can increase stomach acid. You may want to try tea instead.||Tip: Skip the tomatoes and onions on your burger.||Tip: Stick to low-fat dairy products.||Tip: Choose low-fat meats, like skinless chicken breasts.|
Other Ways to Control GERD
Other steps that may help keep your GERD symptoms away include:
- If you smoke, talk to your doctor about ways to quit.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight or obese can make GERD symptoms worse.
- Avoid clothing that is tight in the abdominal area. It can put extra pressure on the stomach.
- Sleep with your upper body propped up.
- Chew non-mint gum. Chewing gum can cut down on stomach acid.
American Gastroenterological Association
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
Canadian Institute for Health Information
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116914/Gastroesophageal-reflux-disease-GERD. Updated April 11, 2016. Accessed November 22, 2016.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Kids Health—Nemours Foundation website. Available at: http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/gerd-reflux.html. Updated January 2015. Accessed November 22, 2016.
Kahrilas PJ. Clinical practice. Gastroesophageal reflux disease. N Engl J Med. 2008 ;359(16):1700-1707.
Oliver K, Davies G, Dettmar P. Diet and lifestyle as trigger factors for the onset of heartburn. Nurs Stand. 2011; 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 12, 2016. Accessed November 22, 2016.
Last reviewed November 2017 by Dianne Scheinberg Rishikof MS, RD, LDN Last Updated: 4/17/2018