If you’ve ever felt like a knife’s scraping out your chest area from inside, you are perhaps one of the four in ten who experience acid reflux and its close cousin, heartburn.
Heartburn tends to be less severe, sometimes just a pressure or pain in the chest area but they are both caused by the same thing: acid from your stomach getting past the valve to your stomach and into your esophagus.
This condition is not just uncomfortable. If acid reflux persists, the acid can damage your stomach valve (which can cause more of the same symptoms). It can also damage the esophagus itself, increasing esophageal cancer risk.
There are two ways to approach this situation. The short term solution for getting rid of discomfort includes medication. A longer, more holistic approach includes learning how to improve digestion.
Luckily, the diet for acid reflux fits into both plans!
This standard list of foods includes items high in fat and protein. These foods stay in your stomach for a long time increasing the chances of building up acid. Other foods on this list stimulate or irritate a sensitive stomach — a complete NO for acid reflux sufferers.
These have been proven scientifically to trigger heartburn.
2. Chocolate is high in stimulants, fat, and cocoa — which all increase reflux. Even healthy chocolate is a problem.
3. Deep fried food
4. Coffee – caffeinated and decaffeinated. All caffeine products are included.
5. Alcohol – especially wine.
Additional foods that may increase the problem are:
6. Sodas: High in acid, fill the stomach with gas bubbles and sometimes contain caffeine.
7. High-fat dairy products
8. High-fat meats: beef, pork and lamb stay in the stomach longer.
9. Citrus fruits and juices
12. Tomatoes and tomato-based foods, including pizza.
13. Spicy food
Note: Everyone is different and everyone will respond differently to these foods.
Acid Reflux Diet: Foods to Eat
- Whole grains: oatmeal and brown rice top this list!
- Ginger – history of anti-inflammation and digestive regulation
- Salads – (without the tomatoes and high fat dressing)
- Chicken and Turkey (low fat)
- Fish and seafood
- Greens and Roots
Note: As before individual response may vary.
Very Short Term Relief:
1. Over-the-counter heartburn medications such as antacids work for 1-2 hours.
2. Some medications like Proton pump inhibitors. These can prevent acid production altogether but have significant side effects.
Antacids are the third most common over the counter drug, selling 2.3 billion in 2012 in the U.S. The sixth most prescribed drug — Generic Prilosec — is also an antacid, raking in 53.4 million prescriptions. You can skip the drug industry with a home remedy of 1/2 teaspoon baking soda in water. Strangely enough (since it is acidic), apple cider vinegar has also been found helpful for quick relief.
Short Term Lifestyle Changes:
1. Eat less at each meal.
2. Don’t eat before bed, especially if your acid-reflux is related to lying down.
3. Lie with your chest and head slightly elevated on pillows.
4. Lie on the left side of your body. (Since your stomach is on your left side.)
Long Term Lifestyle Changes
The best advice traditional medicine has for acid-reflux suffers is to lose weight. Being overweight compresses the stomach and increases the tendency of the stomach acid to be forced into the esophagus.
This is easier said than done. If acid reflux sufferers really knew HOW to lose weight easily, they would probably not be overweight and not have acid-reflux problem in the first place.
We need a long term plan to be healthy. A healthy lifestyle would likely take care of excess weight acid-reflux and a hundred other problems.
From this perspective, the avoid list mostly foods you should avoid whether you have acid reflux or not and the good reflux foods are mostly foods that you can eat with pleasure, whether it’s weight loss you wish or to look younger.
Improve Your Digestion
Holistic health practitioners have been telling us for years just how dangerous the antacids and acid blocking medications are.
If your long term health depends on what nutrients you are taking in, the LAST thing you want to do is neutralize your stomach acids or block off stomach acid completely. Even traditional medicine recognizes this can cause calcium and mineral deficiencies.
Holistic practitioners go one step further: they suggest one of the main reasons we experience acid reflux is that our stomachs are generally LOW on acid from a continuous stressful diet of irritating food. The stomach gets used to this and creates a smaller buffer against the acids so that when the stomach is finally shocked into secreting more by obvious irritants like alcohol and caffeine, then the system is overwhelmed.
For most of life I had very strong acid reflux that started in my teens. Later I discovered that it was important to watch what I ate. Most of what is on the list of “Foods to Avoid” is what I naturally avoided.
The problem is I had no idea what was creating this problem. My acid reflux continued to worsen until I was in extreme pain from almost everything I ate. Many nights saw me propped up with pillows as I was unable to lay down due to intense gas pain.
One night the pain was so intense it resonated throughout my whole digestive system from the appendix area to my heart. We feared I was either having an appendicitis attack or a heart attack so we called the doctor who came to my bedside in the middle of the night. Fortunately it was neither.
The way I dealt with this was to limit all foods that caused any intense pain after eating.
At this point, I could only eat twelve foods.
Finally, I went to a clinic for six weeks doing a major detox and slowly introducing foods back in. I left the clinic able to eat twelve foods every day without any problem! That was a major breakthrough.
What were these foods? All were alkaline forming foods except for two and many were watery. Dense foods just did not work. I would eat lots of watermelon all year long, celery, romaine lettuce, zucchini, blueberries, fresh orange juice, fish, 1 tsp of olive oil, small bits of avocado and well-cooked potato and a daily glass of vegetable juice. Later I was able to add more fruits and vegetables.
Finally after years of extreme indigestion, I did get my digestive health back thanks to specific testing telling me about my food sensitivities and products to nourish me back to health. The good news is, it worked! I am happy to say that I can eat almost everything now except chemical additives in food and that, I believe, is my body’s intelligence.
Here is the recipe for my favourite vegetable juice: Perfect Vegetable Juice
Written by Randy Fritz and Diana Herrington of Real Food for Life.