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Oh, Acid Reflux…how I hate thee! Anyone who has suffered through the burning sensation of stomach acid creeping up the esophagus and into the throat knows what I mean. But the restricted diet one is supposed to eat after a GERD diagnosis is just as bad! So, when it comes to food, what’s good for acid reflux? And can you still enjoy your favorite foods with reflux? Today, we’ll discuss substitutes for your favorite foods that trigger acid reflux, so that you can find pleasure in food all over again!
Today, we’ll discuss substitutes for your favorite foods that trigger acid reflux, so that you can find pleasure in food all over again!
Some grains can be mildly alkaline and easier on the digestive system, like quinoa, wild rice, millet and amaranth. Others like brown rice, steel cut oats, spelt and barley are only mildly acidic and better tolerated.
Grains like wheat, rye, corn, buckwheat and white rice are highly acidic foods. If you do want to add them to your diet, make sure that you read up on how to properly soak, sprout and ferment grains (think sourdough bread) so that the nutrients in them become more bioavailable and the phytates are reduced.
For some, meat can trigger acid reflux because it’s high in proteins, hence harder to digest. This means that your meat-based dinner sits longer in the stomach, putting pressure on the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) for a longer period of time. This is particularly true for red meats. If you have acid reflux, avoid beef, pork, lamb and mutton.
Instead, choose lean proteins, like fish and poultry. Shellfish like crab, lobster, scallops, and shrimp are good options too. Substitute ground turkey for ground beef to still enjoy your favorite casseroles, tacos and stews. If your reflux still persists, try switching to plant based proteins like tofu, soy foods and sprouts to see if you notice any difference in your GERD symptoms and frequency.
Highly acidic in nature, citrus fruits like oranges, grapefruit and tangerine are common GERD triggers. It’s best to avoid them as well as citrus fruit juices, like your morning favorite – OJ.
Enjoy other non-citrus fruits like bananas, melon, cantaloupe, berries and watermelon for a healthy snack. Feel free to make homemade juices and smoothies with these fruits blended with some dark leafy greens.
French fries, chicken nuggets and fried chicken are high-fat foods that worsen reflux because they can delay gastric emptying, exerting extra pressure on the stomach and the LES.
Instead of frying, opt for baking, poaching, grilling or roasting your favorite vegetables and meat recipes.
Dairy products are high in saturated fats, which delay the emptying of the stomach and increase pressure on the LES.
If full-fat milk and cheese are a problem, you can swap them for their low-fat versions to see if they improve your acid reflux symptoms. Try plant-based milks like soy milk, almond milk, coconut milk or cashew milk for your morning coffee instead, though these are also good to cook with. Love cheese too much to give it up completely? No problem…just make sure that you eat a little cheese in the beginning of your meal instead of a big cheese plate at the end.
Both garlic and onion may add great flavor to your meats and vegetables, but these are common acid reflux triggers. If you notice your symptoms are worse after eating these, they are best avoided completely.
Some people fare better with dehydrated versions of onion and garlic, as they can be less irritating for the stomach; definitely worth a try. However, if your symptoms persist, add flavor to your food with fresh herbs like parsley, basil, cilantro and dill.
For a few select of us, spicy food can be a heartburn trigger. Sadly, there’s no substitute to add heat to your food, but you can still add flavor to your meals with fresh herbs.
Cook with rosemary, ginger, basil, cilantro and thyme instead of using chilies, jalapenos and cayenne pepper to add fresh flavors to your meal.
While avocado is lauded as being one of the healthiest fruits, its high natural fat content can make it a reflux trigger for some. If you have mild reflux, you may still continue to eat small quantities of avocado. But if it’s one of your trigger foods, its best to swap the guacamole for a delicious dip made with Greek yogurt blended with natural herbs like parsley, chives and basil.
Tomato sauce is a common trigger for acid reflux because tomatoes are highly acidic. This may make favorites like pasta, pizza and salsa a no-no on your diet.
You don’t have to give up pasta, pizza and salsa dip completely! Try a pesto or spinach sauce for your pasta; I guarantee you – they’re delicious! Feel free to try a white sauce, pesto or tapenade sauce for your favorite vegetable pizza too.
Cocoa is acidic and can cause the esophageal sphincter to relax, triggering acid reflux.
If you suffer from mild reflux, swap milk or white chocolate for a dark chocolate and see if your symptoms improve. It’s also very important to moderate your intake – we recommend a small square couple times a week. However, if chocolate is one of your main reflux triggers, there are plenty of non-chocolate desserts to enjoy. Think fresh fruit parfait, sorbets and fruit platters.
Sodas are best avoided as they lead to excess air trapped inside the stomach to exert extra pressure on the lower esophageal sphincter which triggers acid reflux.
Better alternatives are flavored water, cold-pressed juices and iced teas that are just as delicious and way healthier for you too.
Caffeine is a common heartburn trigger, which means that you probably hate giving up on your favorite cup of Joe.
Swap coffee for a cup of herbal tea or green tea past afternoon. If you are a java junkie, cutting back on portion sizes can be a good place to start. Buy new smaller coffee cups (to replace those jumbo sized mugs you got at Starbucks) so that limiting moderating your intake becomes easier.
Alcohol relaxes the LES, allowing acid to creep up the esophagus, triggering acid reflux.
If you have mild acid reflux, you can have a drink occasionally. Make sure there’s a good 3 to 4-hour gap before you go to bed, as this can greatly help in keeping acid reflux symptoms at bay. If you have trouble keeping your intake in check, a good trick is to drink a glass of water after every alcoholic beverage you consume to help moderate consumption. In any case, avoid all carbonated beverages and fruit juices as mixtures.
We highly recommend that you start a food diary to identify your specific GERD triggers and work to eliminate only these from your diet. Also, the permanent solution to acid reflux is to increase production of good quality stomach acid so that you can digest all kinds of food well. Working with a holistic practitioner and including digestive enzymes as well as raft-forming alginates will go a long way towards fixing your digestion. Remember, the key to sticking to a healthy diet is to eat a variety of foods, so that you don’t get bored with the same food on your plate day after day!