By Alice || Edited by Go Ask Alice Editorial Team || Last edited Feb 16, 2024
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Alice! Health Promotion. "Eating tips when heartburn hits (acid reflux)." Go Ask Alice!, Columbia University, 16 Feb. 2024, https://goaskalice.columbia.edu/answered-questions/eating-tips-when-heartburn-hits-acid-reflux. Accessed 15, Jun. 2024.

Alice! Health Promotion. (2024, February 16). Eating tips when heartburn hits (acid reflux). Go Ask Alice!, https://goaskalice.columbia.edu/answered-questions/eating-tips-when-heartburn-hits-acid-reflux.

Dear Alice,

What should I eat if I have acid reflux?

Dear Reader, 

Choosing what to eat can be a struggle, especially when certain foods cause reflux-related discomfort! The good news is that some foods can reduce your symptoms. In addition to making changes to what you eat, some lifestyle changes and medications may also ease acid reflux. Depending on how long it lasts, you may find support from a health care provider who can help you manage these symptoms more effectively. Whether you decide to embark on this journey by yourself or alongside a health care professional, discovering what works best for you when it comes to acid reflux may involve some trial and error. Read on for information about acid reflux, what foods to enjoy (and avoid), and other ways to manage your symptoms! 

Acid reflux happens when the muscle that connects the esophagus (the tube that connects the stomach to the mouth) and stomach relaxes. This muscle usually remains closed after you swallow food. If it’s open when it shouldn’t be, stomach acid can travel up into the esophagus. This can irritate the esophageal tissues, causing uncomfortable symptoms including regurgitation, burning sensation, chest pain, nausea, and chronic coughing. 

Some people are more at risk of acid reflux than others. This includes people who smoke, have a hiatal hernia, are pregnant, are obese, or take certain medications. Additionally, eating and drinking certain things can worsen your existing symptoms and it’s recommended to avoid them when possible. These include alcohol, caffeine, chocolate, peppermint, high-fat foods, citrus fruits, tomato-based foods, dairy products, carbonated drinks, spicy foods, onions, and garlic. 

Since everyone experiences acid reflux in their own way, a more personalized treatment plan may be needed. It may be helpful to keep a food journal where you document what foods you eat and your reaction to them. This will help you know which foods to avoid. 

You may also be comforted to know that what you eliminate now may not be out of your life forever. After eliminating trigger-foods from your diet, you can try reintroducing them one-by-one to see if you’re still affected. Additionally, certain foods are less likely to trigger acid reflux symptoms. Some of the foods you may consider include: 

  • High-fiber foods, such as whole grains 
  • Non-citrus fruits 
  • Vegetables 
  • Foods high in unsaturated fats, like avocados, and nuts 
  • Lean meat, like chicken and turkey 

Often, you can prevent acid reflux symptoms by eating small portions, quitting smoking and drinking, avoiding lying down immediately after eating, and wearing loose clothing. If you’re currently suffering from an acid reflux attack, there are some things you might try to help lessen your symptoms. These tips include standing up, drinking a small amount of water, and changing into clothes that don't put pressure on your abdomen. You may also find relief in natural remedies or over-the-counter (OTC) medications, such as antacids, alginates, or those that reduce or block acid production. 

These solutions are meant to provide short-term relief. After all, acid reflux refers to an occasional sensation of burning in your throat. But if acid reflux becomes a frequent fixture of your life, you may consider speaking with a health care provider about the possibility of having what’s known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). If this is the case, they can help you navigate treatment options, including prescription strength medications. Whether you decide to embark on this journey by yourself or alongside a health care professional, discovering what works best for you when it comes to acid reflux may involve some trial-and-error. This might involve adjusting your eating habits to include foods that are softer on the stomach and avoid triggering ones. It may also include lifestyle modifications or the introduction of OTC or prescription medication. Best of luck with the exploration process. 

Wishing you discomfort-free eating! 

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