17 August, 2011
Is Peanut Butter Bad for Gastric Reflux?
Nothing puts a damper on a good meal more than feeling a burning sensation in your chest soon after you indulge. If you have gastric reflux, you know you must choose meals carefully, but sometimes your taste buds win out over the pain. Peanut butter, as a high-fat food, may cause some discomfort, but you can enjoy it without pain if you can control your intake.
Gastric reflux occurs when the muscle that separates the stomach from the esophagus, the lower esophageal sphincter, weakens or relaxes at inappropriate times. This allows the acidic contents of your stomach to flow back into your esophagus. If this occurs often, you probably suffer from gastric reflux. Reflux causes a burning pain in your chest called heartburn. In some cases, gastric reflux also causes coughing, nausea or wheezing. If left untreated, gastric juices may damage your esophageal tissue, causing esophagitis, which can ultimately lead to cancer. While doctors often prescribe medication to alleviate symptoms and promote healing, making changes to your diet also helps.
The goal of the diet for gastric reflux is to help prevent and manage symptoms. A simple diet change that can help alleviate symptoms is to eat smaller meals. This helps limit gastric pressure and prevent reflux. Certain foods can also exacerbate reflux. Chocolate, for example, contains a substance called methylxanthine, which relaxes the esophageal sphincter, increasing the likelihood of reflux. Caffeine, alcohol, mint, citrus juices, carbonated drinks and tomato products also tend to increase reflux symptoms and should be avoided. In addition, it also helps to limit the fat in your diet by avoiding high-fat meals and fried foods. Fat in food delays stomach emptying and relaxes the esophageal sphincter, increasing risk of reflux.
Peanut butter is a good source of protein, fiber and heart-healthy fat. In addition, including peanut butter in your diet offers a number of health benefits, including reducing your risk of heart disease and diabetes, according to the Peanut Institute. But with more than 75 percent of its calories coming from fat, peanut butter is a high-fat food. As a high-fat food item, peanut butter delays gastric emptying and lowers esophageal pressure, which may increase your reflux symptoms.
While peanut butter is a high-fat food, if you really enjoy it, you may be able to continue to include it in your diet. Limiting the amount you eat at a meal can help reduce the total fat content of your meal, which may improve tolerance. A 2 tablespoon serving of peanut butter contains 16 grams of fat. Try limiting your portion to 1 tablespoon, and closely monitor your body's response to assess tolerance. You can also try reduced-fat peanut butters to help limit fat intake and reflux symptoms.
- Medical University of South Carolina: Heart Burn -- Gastric Acid Reflux Disease
- McKinley Health Center; GERD Diet; 2008
- "The Complete Book of Food Counts"; C.T. Netzer; 2009
- The Peanut Institute; 10 Reasons Peanuts Improve Health; 2006
- BarnabyChambers/iStock/Getty Images