What to Eat For: Acid Reflux

When I first started taking my acid reflux seriously, I was overwhelmed at the list of foods NOT to eat. At the time I couldn’t fathom a morning without coffee or passing up on cocktails with friends. My favorite ice cream was mint chocolate chip and any I loved any dish drenched in marinara sauce. I used multiple medications to deal with the discomfort, but because I did not address the root cause of my acid reflux, over a few months my acid reflux progressed into gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD. This meant my occasional heartburn worsened until I experienced pain every day and then after every meal. I knew that adjusting what I ate would be difficult, so to avoid feeling too deprived I instead focused on what I COULD eat. It doesn’t help that the diet for acid reflux is called the “bland diet”, but once I committed to these dietary recommendations, I felt better in as little as one week! This quick relief was highly motivating for me to stick with making changes.

Depending on the frequency and severity of your heartburn, you might only need to adjust a few things in your diet, such as eating fried food less often or drinking only one alcoholic beverage. Maybe that particular combination always results in discomfort and you should simply avoid consuming them together. It is important to note that there is no one-diet-fits all for acid reflux. Each person has their own unique digestive tract and heartburn triggers. I highly recommend tracking your food and symptoms for a several weeks to find out what is impacting your heartburn and being the process of healing. Download a printable Food Symptom Diary here.

A Quick Recap of Common Acid Reflux Triggers

These foods are NOT recommended to eat for acid reflux. You may be able to tolerate small amounts of these foods, or having just one or two of these foods daily, but when combined they can increase your risk of heartburn:

Most Common Triggers

  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine
  • Carbonated beverages
  • Chocolate
  • Citrus & citrus juices (lemons, limes, oranges, grapefruit)
  • Coffee
  • High fat foods in excessive amounts like fried foods, greasy/oily meals, fatty cuts of meat, oils, cheeses, avocado, nuts & nut butters)
  • Mint (peppermint, spearmint)
  • Peppers (black, red)
  • Spicy foods
  • Tomatoes & tomato-based foods

Other Potential Triggers

  • Beverages at hot temperatures
  • Garlic
  • Gluten
  • Highly acidic foods, pH <5.0
  • Onions
  • Lactose, the natural sugar in milk

Check out this prior blog post to learn more about not only foods, but also medical conditions, medications, and lifestyle factors that may be contributing to your acid reflux.

Download your free 3 Day Meal Plan for Lowering Acid Reflux

Foods That Help Acid Reflux

Doctors Jamie Koufman, Marc Bauer, and Jordan Stern (authors of Dropping Acid: The Reflux Diet Cookbook & Cure) have helped many of their patients cure acid reflux by limiting their intake of highly acidic foods. This means avoiding foods with a pH less than 5.0. The lower acidity has less chance to activate pepsin that may be in the throat and esophagus if you have frequent reflux. Regurgitation all the way to the throat can result in laryngopharyngeal reflux or lPR. One study of 20 people with LPR avoided foods with a pH level less than 5.0. Nineteen of those patients showed improvement in symptoms and 3 patients’ symptoms resolved completely.

Low Acid Fruits & Vegetables for Acid Reflux

Lean Proteins for Acid Reflux

Fat sits in the stomach longer than carbohydrates of protein, so fatty cuts of meat are not recommended. Avoid fried meats and aim for leaner protein sources such as:

  • Eggs Whites
  • Fish & Shellfish
  • Beef
    • Eye round roast & steak
    • Sirloin tip side steak
    • Top round roast & steak
    • Bottom round roast & steak
    • Top sirloin steak
  • Poultry
    • Chicken breast
    • Turkey breast
  • Low-Fat Dairy Products (cheese, yogurt, milk)
  • Plant Proteins:
    • Beans
    • Peas
    • Lentils
    • Soy – tofu, edamame, tempeh

Gluten-Free Grains for Acid Reflux

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. Gluten does not cause acid reflux for everyone, but may worsen acid reflux for individuals with celiac disease or wheat intolerance.

Gluten-Free Grains:

  • Amaranth
  • Buckwheat
  • Corn
  • Millet
  • Oats
  • Quinoa
  • Rice, brown rice, wild rice
  • Sorghum
  • Teff

Need ideas of how to eat these grains?
Check out my Gluten Free Pinterest board for recipes!

If you have not found that gluten-containing products impacts your acid reflux, these other whole grain glutenous options are great:

  • Barley
  • Bulgur
  • Farro/Emmer
  • Rye
  • Triticale
  • Wheat groats

Lactose-Free Options for Acid Reflux

Dairy is another source of potential heartburn for individuals who cannot break down the natural sugar (lactose) found in cow’s milk. Full-fat dairy products may also trigger heart burn. Opt for 2% or fat-free milk, but if you notice that it contributes to your discomfort, try lactose-free milk or one of these plant based milk alternatives:

  • Almond milk
  • Cashew milk
  • Oat milk
  • Rice Milk
  • Soy milk

Beverages for Acid Reflux

  • Water
  • White or jasmine tea
  • Decaf herbal tea such as chamomile or ginger
  • Low-fat or fat-free milk (if tolerated)

Spices for Acid Reflux Diet

Too much spice and peppers should be avoided. Ginger and cinnamon MAY cause heartburn in some individuals. Add flavor to a bland diet with herbs like basil, cilantro, dill, cardamon, lemongrass, oregano, parsley, rosemary, salt & tarragon.

Free Download: 3 Day Meal Plan to Lower Acid Reflux

Need more than a 3 day meal plan? I offer online nutrition counseling and meal planning for people struggling with acid reflux. As someone who has experienced acid reflux and healed my gut from the burn over time, I understand the time and effort it takes to change your lifestyle. Learn more about my services offered or schedule a free strategy session to explore the best way to change your diet to get rid of acid reflux!

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