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
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 medications. If reflux is not treated, it can cause damage to your esophagus.
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.
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.
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 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.
(and tomato-based foods, like pasta sauce and chili)
—Alcohol stimulates stomach acid production, which can make GERD symptoms worse.
(with or without caffeine)
- Carbonated drinks
When 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.
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
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
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: Skipping 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.|
In addition to changing the way you eat by avoiding trigger foods, these steps may help keep your GERD symptoms away:
- 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.
- Sleep with your head elevated.
- Chew non-mint gum. Chewing gum will increase saliva production and cut down on stomach acid.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/. Updated October 14, 2013. Accessed February 21, 2014.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Nemours' KidsHealth.org website. Available at:
http://kidshealth.org/parent/system/surgical/gerd_reflux.html. Updated June 2011. Accessed February 21, 2014.
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_diet.html. Updated April 16, 2008. Accessed February 21, 2014.
Kahrilas PJ. Clinical practice. Gastroesophageal reflux disease.
N Engl J Med. 2008 Oct 16;359(16):1700-1707.
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 5, 2014. Accessed February 21, 2014.
Last reviewed March 2014 by Dianne Scheinberg Rishikof MS, RD, LDN
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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