Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a condition that causes your stomach contents to flow back into your esophagus. When this happens, you experience painful symptoms, like heartburn.
One way you can manage your symptoms is by making dietary changes. To help you experience relief from the symptoms of GERD, Hardeep M. Singh, MD, discusses what foods to avoid if you have it.
How your diet affects GERD
The lower esophageal sphincter (LES) connects your esophagus to your stomach. It works like a gate, opening when you swallow and closing to prevent backflow. But certain foods can relax your LES, which results in regurgitation.
Not all patients have the same triggers. You might be able to eat garlic and have no issues. That’s why Dr. Singh recommends keeping a food log. You can pinpoint what makes your GERD worse.
Citrus fruits and juices
Citrus fruits and juices are very acidic and known to cause heartburn. One study had 400 patients with heartburn drink grapefruit juice and orange juice. 73% of them had heartburn after.
Avoid these citrus foods and juices to help manage your GERD:
- Tomatoes and tomato sauce
Any food or drink that’s acidic can make your symptoms worse. Unfortunately, this also includes coffee.
Foods high in fatty acids weaken your LES, allowing your stomach contents to backflow. They take longer to digest, so your stomach produces more acid to break them down. When food sits in your stomach longer, your risk for heartburn increases.
Foods high in fat include:
- Beef and pork
- French fries
- Dairy products (whole milk, butter)
- Greasy foods
You may not have to cut out all of these foods. Opt for lean meats and low-fat cheese and milk. But if they still worsen your GERD, Dr. Singh recommends cutting them out of your diet.
Sadly, many patients with GERD report chocolate as a trigger. Because chocolate contains serotonin and caffeine. Serotonin is a hormone that makes you feel relaxed and happy; it also relaxes your LES.
Spicy and tangy foods
Spicy foods can make GERD symptoms worse for several reasons. They have certain compounds that slow digestion and can irritate your stomach and esophagus.
Garlic and onions are two types of tangy foods. They can make you belch, irritating your esophagus and heartburn.
Don’t drink too much alcohol if you have GERD. It promotes stomach acid production and has a sedative effect.
Sodas and other carbonated beverages increase stomach acid and relax the LES.
Peppermint and spearmint may trigger heartburn in GERD patients. Although mint doesn’t affect your LES, it can irritate your esophagus.
Monitor your GERD symptoms
Learning your triggers is the key to controlling GERD. Once you find out what worsens your symptoms, you can make adjustments.
For more information about managing GERD, schedule an appointment with Dr. Singh by phone or online. Our offices located in Orange and Irvine, California.