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Low-Acid Diets

By Janet Renee, MS, RD

Your doctor recommends following a low-acid meal plan to relieve various gastrointestinal symptoms such as heartburn, ulcers and acid reflux disease. Because symptoms vary drastically from person to person, it's crucial to work with your health care provider or dietitian to develop an individualized eating plan based on your symptom frequency and severity. The good news is that you'll likely experience gastrointestinal relief once you learn how to implement a low-acid meal plan.

The pH Connection

The pH value of a particular food dictates its acid content. Foods with a low pH value contain high levels of acid and foods with a high pH value have a low-acid content. The pH scale ranges from zero to 14. If a food is right in the middle of this scale, possessing a pH of seven, it's considered neutral. Acidic foods have a pH less than seven and alkaline foods have a pH above seven.

Supportive Data

Sticking to foods above a certain pH helps relieve acid-related digestive problems. Your individual tolerance level dictates the range you need to stay within. One researcher found symptoms were relieved when laryngopharyngeal reflux patients stuck to a low-acid diet consisting of foods and beverages with a pH of five and above. Laryngopharyngeal reflux occurs when stomach acid backs up into the esophagus. The small study consisted of 20 patients who followed a strict low-acid diet for two weeks. About 19 of the 20 subjects showed improvement, according to results published in the August 2011 edition of the journal, "Annals of Otology, Rhinology and Laryngology."

Low-Acid Foods

Foods with a pH value of at least 4.6 are considered low-acid foods, according to Oklahoma State University's Robert M. Kerr Food & Agricultural Products Center. Obtaining a complete list of the pH value for common foods helps you craft your meal plan around foods with a pH of 4.6 and above. You can assess your tolerance and make adjustments based on how much acid you can tolerate. Examples of foods with a pH pf 4.6 or above include artichokes, asparagus, avocado, broccoli, beans, cantaloupe, Brussels sprouts, carrots and cauliflower.

Acidic Foods to Avoid

Foods with a pH value ranging from 0 to 4.5 are highly acidic, according to OSU. Most fruits fall within this category. Examples of foods you must avoid include apples, apricots, blueberries, citrus fruits, grapes and mangoes. A low-acid diet also excludes pickled vegetables, salsas, yogurt and vinegar. Some sensitive individuals can tolerate acidic foods in smaller portions, while others need to follow a strict low-acid diet to prevent symptoms.

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