The meal may be over, but for some the memory lingers on. And not in a good way. Heartburn, chest pain, belching, coughing, regurgitation — it’s all part of an all too familiar picture for those who suffer from heartburn.
If you’re one of the 20 percent of adults who frequently experience these symptoms, incorporating foods that help curb acid reflux into your diet may alleviate discomfort and promote better digestive health.
What is acid reflux or GERD?
Chronic acid reflux, known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (or GERD), is a condition caused by the flow of contents from the stomach upward into the esophagus. What’s behind the burn: a weakening or malfunctioning of a ring of muscle at the base of the esophagus, the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). When this doesn’t close properly, any acid-containing contents of your stomach can flow back up into the esophagus.
While antacids and other over-the-counter medications can help tame stomach acid, dietary tweaks can reduce the frequency and intensity of symptoms such as heartburn. But keep in mind that “every person is different,” says Julie Stefanski, a registered dietitian nutritionist and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Your doctor or a registered dietitian can help identify which specific foods may ease your heartburn.
Here are eight foods that can help you find relief from heartburn or GERD.
8 foods that help prevent acid reflux
1. High fiber foods
According to a small 2018 World Journal of Gastroenterology study, high-fiber consumption may minimize issues with GERD. “High-fiber foods make you feel full,” says Neena Mohan, assistant professor of clinical medicine in gastroenterology at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University. “That’s a good thing, because you’re less likely to overeat, which can contribute to heartburn.” What’s more, oatmeal in particular absorbs stomach acid. Other high-fiber options: whole-grain bread, brown rice and quinoa, as well as green vegetables such as asparagus, broccoli and brussels sprouts. But remember, Stefanski says: “Fiber can’t work unless there is also enough fluid in your diet,” so make sure to drink plenty of water.
This low-acid or alkaline fruit can help neutralize stomach acid by coating an irritated esophageal lining. And not only are bananas alkaline, they’re also rich in pectin — a soluble fiber that helps keeps food flowing nicely through the digestive tract. This can help you feel full longer, so you’re less likely to overeat.
Other alkaline foods include:
- Melons (particularly cantaloupe and honeydew)
- Grains (like wild rice, oats and quinoa)
3. Salad greens
Pile up your plate! These mild green leafy veggies are alkaline, so they’re easy on the gut and won’t cause painful gas. In fact, a small 2017 study, published in JAMA Otalaryngology — Head & Neck Surgery, showed that people who followed a plant-based Mediterranean diet heavy in such produce reported less frequent acid reflux symptoms. Just resist the urge to add high-fat dressings, acidic vinaigrettes or toppings such as onions, which can trigger GERD, Stefanski notes.
Milk and yogurt act as a temporary buffer, soothing heartburn symptoms. “One of the reasons we’re symptomatic with acid reflux is because it causes damage to the lining of the esophagus,” says Nipaporn Pichetshote, M.D., a gastroenterology specialist at UCLA Medical Center. “Milk and yogurt coat the esophagus so you don’t feel that acid irritating that lining.” More happiness: Yogurt is rich in probiotics, which promote a healthy balance of bacteria in your gut, helping with digestion — along with upping absorption of nutrients. Opt for skim or low-fat varieties rather than those made from whole milk. “Foods that are higher in fat can cause more reflux,” Pichetshote says.