Foods themselves don't actually cause gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD. However, they can sometimes cause an increase in acid reflux symptoms. Learning which foods increase your symptoms can help you manage your condition, in conjunction with taking any medications and making lifestyle changes your doctor recommends.
GERD happens when your stomach contents go back up your esophagus due to a weakness in the ring of muscle, called the lower esophageal sphincter, that separates these two parts of the gastrointestinal tract. When you experience the symptoms of acid indigestion or heartburn more than twice each week, you may have GERD, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
Factors that could cause the lower esophageal sphincter to weaken include a hiatal hernia, taking certain medications, being overweight, smoking, drinking alcohol and increased abdominal pressure due to pregnancy.
Diet and GERD
Eating certain foods can sometimes make you more likely to experience GERD symptoms. However, different foods affect people in different ways. How you eat and what you do after eating can play a role as well. Large meals, lying down after eating and eating within four hours of bedtime may all make symptoms worse.
Potentially Problematic Foods
Foods shown to increase GERD symptoms include mint, coffee, alcohol, chocolate and deep-fried foods, according to an article published in U.S. News & World Report in March 2012. Some people also experience an increase in symptoms after consuming garlic, onions, carbonated beverages, citrus fruits, spicy foods, tomato-based foods, fatty foods and whole milk. These foods either loosen the lower esophageal sphincter, slow digestion and increase the risk for heartburn, or make irritation worse if you do experience reflux after eating them.
Determining Food Triggers
Avoiding all the foods that can potentially trigger symptoms isn't usually necessary. Keeping a food diary, including what you eat and what symptoms you experience after eating these foods, can help you narrow down your own individual triggers. Once you do this, you can take these foods out of your diet and see if your symptoms improve. If this is the case, try adding the potential triggers back into your diet one at a time to verify their effect on your GERD symptoms.