Patient complaints such as heartburn, regurgitation, coughing, hoarseness and throat clearing can indicate acid reflux disease, the treatment of which almost invariably involves medical therapy like antacids. Specifically, an antacid class known as proton-pump inhibitors is often used to control acid reflux symptoms. However, medical therapy alone may not be enough to control one’s symptoms. Growing numbers of patients are looking for non-drug based ways to address their reflux disease. Which brings us to how we can use what we eat and how much we eat to treat acid reflux disease.
The basic instructions I give my patients includes first and foremost, quitting smoking. Then, be careful with consuming caffeine, chocolate, alcohol and mint. A more comprehensive list of foods to limit or to avoid is:
Meats (any meat with high fat content): ground beef, marbled steak,
Processed chicken products
Fats, oils, sweets: chocolate, potato/corn chips, high-fat baked goods, creamy/oily salad dressings, coffee, alcohol
High acid fruits and veggies and acidic juices: orange, grapefruit, cranberry, tomato, lemon, lime, mashed potatoes, French fries, potato salad, raw onion, garlic
Grains: macaroni and cheese, pasta with marinara or heavy cream sauce
Regular fat content dairy products: sour cream, milk shakes, ice cream, cottage cheese, high fat cheese
This may seem like a daunting list of foods to limit or eliminate from one’s diet. However, there is some logic to the above list. For instance, foods with high fat content take more time to digest, so will most likely increase your stomach acid production and worsen your acid reflux symptoms.
In addition, eating smaller, controlled portions is important; smaller food volume keeps your stomach from getting too full. A full stomach can also result in overproduction of acid as the stomach works overtime to digest larger quantities of food. At first, remembering the types of foods to avoid may be difficult, so keeping handy a list of is helpful. Gradually you become used to this new approach and it can become second nature.
I usually recommend patients take note of their progress during diet modification as it can be a valuable tool in identifying that foods act as triggers causing the over-production of acid and kick-starting acid reflux symptoms. Once you know and understand which foods trigger your acid reflux, you can begin to slowly, and in small portions, add back in certain foods that you love. Ultimately, you’ll find a balance between food happiness and an acid reflux free life.
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