Dieting to Treat Acid Reflux

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If you suffer from Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), there’s nothing more frustrating than wondering which foods will set off your heartburn. You likely already have a long list of foods that you know to avoid. However, with so many foods on the ‘danger’ list, is there anything left to eat? What about your favorite forbidden foods – is it safe to eat these on occasion? Follow these five tips to get started on a stomach-friendly GERD diet.

Tip #1: Eat what you love – just eat less.

You don’t necessarily have to stop eating your favorite foods. Just practice moderation and portion control. Rather than hitting up the drive-thru every night and wolfing down a quarter-pounder with bacon and fries, cut back on the fast food burgers and instead share a few sliders with friends every few weeks. Because fried foods and high-fat foods take longer for your body to digest, when you eat a large portion, it sits in your stomach longer. This increases your risk for heartburn. Eating smaller portions of these foods (like a few small sliders) reduces the risk of heartburn and still lets you enjoy what you love.

Tip #2: Keep a food diary.

Everyone is different. What causes heartburn for your friend may not cause heartburn for you, and vice-versa. While some foods may be okay for you to eat on their own, they may prove fatal when combined with others. The best way to determine what’s safe to eat is through a food diary. Write down everything you eat throughout the day, when you ate it, and whether you experienced heartburn. This way you can identify trigger foods, and understand what combinations of foods need to be avoided.

Tip #3: Cut out caffeine.

Whether it’s caffeine in a chocolate bar or your favorite soda, caffeine is a major trigger for heartburn. Cutting back on chocolate, soda and coffee will reduce your risk for heartburn. You may still be able to enjoy the occasional diet soda, cup of coffee or bite of a chocolate bar – just use your food diary to determine whether it’s safe to have one first, and avoid combining it with other high-risk foods.

Tip #4: Try something new.

Your Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) diet doesn’t have to be all about elimination. Instead, try adding in new foods that are known to be heartburn-friendly. If dairy is a trigger food, try low-fat dairy or soy-based products. If high-fat red meat is a problem, switch to a leaner cut and broil, grill or bake your steak. Consider adding whole wheat bread to your diet, especially at meals with known trigger foods. Bread can help soak up stomach acid, lowering your risk for heartburn.

Tip #5: Make it stick.

Gradual changes are critical for the success of your new diet. Don’t try to change everything overnight – you’ll likely end up feeling deprived and frustrated. Instead, let your food diary guide your eating choices. You’ll naturally start decreasing your intake of heartburn-inducing foods and avoid food combinations that are a recipe for disaster. If you go out to eat, plan ahead. Check out the menu online and choose your meal in advance, so you won’t be tempted when it comes to ordering. And don’t be afraid to ask for modifications. Something as simple as having the sauce on the side can turn a heartburn dish into a delicious dinner.

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