Avoid These Foods to Minimize Your GERD Symptoms

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) happens when a small opening in your digestive system called the lower esophageal sphincter weakens, which causes the acidic contents of your stomach to migrate upward into your esophagus. GERD is extremely common, affecting around 20% of Americans.

Although it’s one of the more benign causes of chest pain, GERD can be highly uncomfortable and unpleasant. Foul tastes in your mouth after a meal, excessive burping, and heartburn are common GERD symptoms that can arise. You may hold back from eating the foods you enjoy most for fear of triggering your symptoms. 

Heartburn and acid reflux from GERD can cause secondary issues that have more of an impact than you realize. You might have trouble sleeping as symptoms tend to worsen when you lie down. 

Without treatment, GERD can also lead to serious complications like esophagitis, ulcers in the esophagus, or gastrointestinal bleeding. Fortunately, managing your GERD to prevent complications and discomfort is simpler than it may seem. 

Double board-certified internist and cardiologist Jeffrey H. Graf, MD, invites you to his private practice on the Upper East Side of Manhattan in New York City for personalized care. In many cases, managing GERD is as simple as becoming more mindful of what you eat, when you eat, and the size of your meals. 

In this blog, we cover a few of the worst offenders when it comes to foods that trigger GERD symptoms. You can better manage your reflux by cutting down on certain foods or removing them from your diet altogether. 

1. Spicy foods

Spicy foods tend to irritate your stomach lining and the inside of your esophagus because of a chemical called capsaicin. Consuming spicy curries, hot wings, hot sauces, and other foods with capsaicin intensifies the heartburn you feel with GERD. 

2. Deep-fried foods and fat

High-fat foods and fried delicacies delay gastric emptying, which can increase acid reflux because of a fuller stomach. If you want fewer GERD symptoms, think twice before eating fried and rich, creamy foods such as:

Ask Dr. Graf to help you find reduced-fat alternatives for fatty dietary staples. 

3. Citrus and other acidic options

Many foods have high acid contents that increase the overall acidity of your stomach fluids. Citrus fruits like lemons, limes, and oranges may come to mind first, but several acidic fruits and veggies increase heartburn, burping, and other GERD symptoms. Be wary of cooked tomatoes, garlic, onion, and pineapple. 

4. Alcohol, caffeine, and carbonated beverages

If you have recurrent GERD symptoms, watching what you drink is just as important as watching what you eat. Steer clear of beverages with high carbonation, caffeine, or alcohol content, including:

Even some acidic juices that aren’t caffeinated or boozy can trigger GERD symptoms, including summertime favorites like orange juice and lemonade. 

5. Chocolate

This one might come as an unwelcome surprise, but chocolate can worsen acid reflux, too. The cocoa powder in chocolate is acidic and can also cause the cells in your intestines to relax, which includes the esophageal sphincter. When the esophageal sphincter relaxes, the contents of your stomach can travel upward.

Adapting to GERD-friendly eating

Of course, some foods may trigger your GERD symptoms more than others. You might find that you can safely eat some of the listed foods in moderation. 

Working with your doctor to establish GERD-friendly eating habits can make a huge difference in how you feel after your meals. By adopting these habits, you may not need to take medications to reduce acid reflux. Beyond avoiding triggering foods, consider taking these steps:

If you’re struggling with acid reflux, Dr. Graf can help you manage GERD and enjoy meals with less stress. Call the office to request an appointment today.

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