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Foods to avoid to prevent acid reflux (GERD)

Left with a bitter taste after a great meal and don’t know why? It’s probably acid reflux. Acid reflux is an uncomfortable backflow of gastric juices up the oesophagus (food pipe). It is usually triggered by what we eat and in severe cases can even be confused for a heart attack! Thankfully, you can simply avoid certain foods to prevent acid reflux and spare yourself this extremely uncomfortable feeling.  

Diet is one of the significant contributors to acid reflux. Like it or not, certain types of food, no matter how great they taste, can worsen the condition. These foods can either cause delayed stomach evacuation, decrease the tension of the lower oesophageal muscle or stimulate the production of stomach acids. Here is a list of foods to avoid to prevent acid reflux: 

  1. Fatty foods: Fried food, cheese, meats etc are perfect for indulging once in a while. Unfortunately, these foods take longer to digest causing a delay in the stomach evacuation. This contributes to acid reflux symptoms.  
  2. Sour or spicy foods: Sour foods are usually high in acids (citric acid, tartaric acid, etc) that can worsen acid reflux as it increases the acidity in the stomach. This includes fruit juice such as orange and grape as well as wine. Foods which are extremely spicy also worsen symptoms of acidity as they irritate the stomach lining. It is especially bad if the oesophagus has any inflammatory lesions.  
  3. Alcohol and smoking: Consuming alcohol is known to cause acid reflux as it can directly affect the oesophageal mucosa (or the oesophageal lining). It can also relax the oesophageal sphincter which is responsible to stop the flow of stomach acid into the oesophagus. Smoking has also been shown to increase the symptoms of acid reflux.  
  4. Caffeine and carbonated beverages: Beverages such as coffee, aerated drinks, citrus juices and even tea can stimulate the production of stomach acid. The sugar content present in these beverages can also increase the pressure and pain in the lower oesophageal sphincter, aggravating the acid reflux symptoms. If you feel queasy and uncomfortable, its best to lay off your daily dose of coffee or “chai” till you feel better.  
  5. Dairy and dairy products: Dairy is high in fat content and hence difficult to digest. It is one of the first acid reflux foods to avoid. This includes chocolates, ice creams, milk, cheese etc. The only dairy product safe to consume during acidity is curd. This is because curd/yogurt contains healthy bacteria which can help in digestion.

Read: Causes of stomach ache after eating

Dietary changes to prevent acid reflux

Chronic acid reflux can also be a symptom of GERD (Gastroesophageal reflux disease). This is a far more serious condition that occurs when the stomach acids and juices start flowing back from the stomach into the oesophagus. If you don’t control acidity right away, it can develop into GERD. You can prevent this by making acid reflux dietary modifications such as: 

  1. Eat plenty of vegetables and non-citrus fruits. They are low fat, low sugar and are rich in fibre and nutrients.  
  2. Incorporate whole grains into your diet such as brown rice, oatmeal etc. They are high in fiber and can help absorb excess stomach acids.  
  3. Swap red meat for lean proteins like chicken, seafood, tofu and egg whites. Avoid frying and consume them baked, boiled, grilled or poached. 
  4. Nuts and seeds provide fibre and nutrients which can help absorb stomach acids. They also help you maintain a healthy body weight.  
  5. Yogurt is probably the only dairy product advised to alleviate acidity symptoms. This is because it is a good source of probiotics that aids in digestion.  
  6. Healthy fats or unsaturated fats can help with acidity symptoms. Avocados, olive oil, walnuts, soy products are all good sources for healthy fats.  
  7. Ginger has anti-inflammatory properties that has made it the go-to home remedy for a wide range of stomach problems. It can be added to smoothies, soups, stir fry, or even steeped as tea.  
  8. Hydrate, hydrate and hydrate. Drink plenty of water to soothe the burning in your stomach and food pipe. 

If your symptoms are not fading away after a few days after these dietary changes as well, you should visit your doctor to figure out what is causing these symptoms. Acidity can be extremely uncomfortable, but it is easily preventable by making healthy dietary and lifestyle choices.  

Read: What to eat and avoid if you have an upset stomach

FAQs

  1. Are acid reflux and heartburn the same?
    Heartburn is a burning sensation in your chest that can resemble a heart attack. It is generally a symptom of acid reflux. Acid reflux is the medical term for when stomach juices and acid come back up the oesophagus. Chronic heartburn and acid reflux can also be symptoms for GERD. 
  2. Can acid reflux cause fever?
    Acid reflux generally does not result in a fever, even if you feel hot. Severe acid reflux can result in a condition called oesophagitis. Oesophagitis is an inflammation that may damage tissues of the oesophagus. This results in chest pain and difficulty in swallowing similar to a sore throat. 
  3. Why does acid reflux happen at night?
    Eating right before going to bed is one of the leading causes of acid reflux at night. The best thing to do is to eat a light dinner at least 2-3 hours before bed. You should also avoid lying down right after eating. 

Read: What causes excessive gas and frequent urination?

Dr Mayank Madan
Author: Dr Mayank Madan
Dr Mayank Madan is an expert surgeon specializing in laparoscopic procedures, CBD exploration, TEP/TAPP hernia repair. He has over 19 years of experience across some of the most prestigious medical institutions across the country. He is also one of the most preferred surgeons to perform bariatric procedures such as sleeve gastrectomies and Roux-en-Y gastric bypass. His areas of interest include bariatric & metabolic surgeries, laparoscopic colo-rectal, hernia repair & hepatobiliary surgeries and GI surgeries.
 
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