GERD is gastroesophageal reflux disease, also known as acid reflux disease. When you eat, your stomach produces acid to break down the food. The lower esophageal sphincter (LES) blocks acid from flowing into your esophagus, but some foods negatively affect the LES. The stomach has a lining that protects it from acid damage, but the esophagus does not have this lining. As a result, acid that has made its way past the LES goes to the esophagus. When it reaches the esophagus, it causes a host of symptoms, including difficulty swallowing, regurgitation, heartburn and dry coughing. As a chronic condition, it is necessary to have a proper diet that can assist in alleviating symptoms. According to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse, foods that can worsen the symptoms of the disease are fried and fatty food, citrus fruit, chocolate, alcohol, onions and garlic, mint-flavored food and tomato-based foods. Before starting a new diet, it is important that you speak to your physician in order to ensure you are not interfering with other medications you may be taking.
Chocolate contains a high level of serotonin, which relaxes the LES. The esophageal sphincter normally prevents acid from going into the esophagus, but when relaxed, it is unable to function properly. As a result, acid reflux and heartburn occur. Instead of eliminating chocolate altogether, eat small amounts of chocolate and monitor how it affects you afterward. If portion control doesn't cause any flare-ups, chocolate consumption in moderation is fine, but you should be careful when eating foods that contain chocolate as an ingredient.
Fried and Fatty Foods
Fried and fatty foods are too heavy for your stomach to digest, and put too much pressure on your LES. As an alternative to fried foods, grill or broil your foods and request that your meats be grilled when dining out. Switch your side of french fries to a baked potato, or ask to have your french fries baked instead of fried. Saturated fat can be found in most red meats and in the skin of chicken breasts. Eat skinless chicken, lean ground beef, turkey and pork tenderloin as they are low in saturated fat and high in protein. Fish is also a healthy alternative and has high amounts of protein.
Citrus Fruit, Juice and Alcohol
Citrus fruit and fruit drinks are acidic and cause your stomach to produce more acid than usual. Acid production is normal during digestion, but your LES cannot handle the high level of acid from fruits and causes it to flow into your esophagus. Reduce your citrus fruit intake and take vitamin supplements such as Vitamin C to maintain the nutrients you get from fruit. Avoid drinking fruit juice or any cocktails that use fruit juice as it can irritate the LES. Alcohol should also be avoided, as it relaxes the LES and causes acid reflux.
Garlic, Onions and Tomato-Based Foods
Garlic and onions can negatively affect your stomach, and both should be consumed in moderation to reduce symptoms. Salsa, marinades and other tomato-based foods carry a high level of citric and malic acid, and cause upset stomach. Rather than forgo it, you can reduce the acidity level in tomatoes when cooking. Add 1 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda for every 28 ounces of tomato sauce used while cooking.
If specific food avoidance is not working to reduce the symptoms of GERD, contact your doctor or nutritionist. Your doctor can find out what specific foods cause your GERD flare-ups, and prescribe medication to minimize or eliminate symptoms. Some of the medications include proton pump inhibitors (PPI), which reduce symptoms and are usually taken a half hour before a meal. Some of the side effects from taking PPI include nausea, diarrhea, abdominal pain and bloating. Always follow the prescription dosage instructions to avoid complications.