Diet is an integral part in controlling acid reflux, especially when it's in the form of laryngopharyngeal reflux (LPR). When this condition occurs, your upper esophageal sphincter struggles to function properly, and acid that's supposed to help the digestive process travels back up into the sensitive tissue at the back of the throat and larynx, and possibly into your nasal airway. With the right diet and by avoiding potentially harmful foods, you should be able to prevent LPR from occurring.
Unlike gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), most people suffering from LPR do not experience heartburn. However, general diet principles are similar in that you should avoid acidic, high-fat and spicy foods. High-fat and oily foods can increase acid secretion, decrease esophageal function or slow your stomach's ability to empty, while acidic and spicy foods could irritate your esophageal lining.
You should eat dinner at least two to three hours before you lie down, and do not snack after your evening meal. If you eat right before going to bed, reflux problems may arise, as the stomach produces large amounts of acid to help you digest food. When you lie down, unused acid usually backs up into the esophagus. Try to avoid heavy, large meals that increase the chance for reflux to develop. If you eat more meals that are smaller, your stomach will have enough room for proper digestion.
- Unlike gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), most people suffering from LPR do not experience heartburn.
- If you eat right before going to bed, reflux problems may arise, as the stomach produces large amounts of acid to help you digest food.
What to Eat and What to Avoid
Good Things to Eat if You Have Acid Reflux
Milk and/or milk products are fine to consume if you suffer from LPR, as long as they are 1 to 2 percent low-fat milk items, fat-free yogurt, feta or goat cheese, or fat-free cream cheese and sour cream. You want to avoid chocolate milk and whole milk.
You can have low-fat breads and grains, but try to avoid any that have high-fat or whole milk content. While fatty foods should not comprise a large portion of your diet, consuming food high in complex carbohydrates will help you prevent LPR. Breads and pastas bind with the acid in your stomach, resulting in less acid backup into your esophagus.
On your list of vegetables to avoid should be creamy or fried vegetables, raw onions and tomatoes. Vegetables that will not have a negative impact on your LPR include baked potatoes, broccoli, carrots, green beans and peas. Fruits like apples, bananas, berries, melons, peaches and pears are fine choices for an LPR diet, but you want to avoid citrus fruits like grapefruit, kiwi, lemons, oranges and pineapple, whether in actual fruit form or their juices.
Aside from citrus juices, you also should try to stay from alcohol, carbonated beverages like soda and tea, and coffee (regular or decaffeinated). You do not have to worry about irritating your reflux when drinking non-citrus juices and water.
Certain spices may cause your reflux to act up and could weaken your lower esophageal sphincter muscle. These include curry, garlic, hot mustard, pepper (especially chili and hot) and vinegar. You also want to avoid peppermint and spearmint.
- Milk and/or milk products are fine to consume if you suffer from LPR, as long as they are 1 to 2 percent low-fat milk items, fat-free yogurt, feta or goat cheese, or fat-free cream cheese and sour cream.
- Vegetables that will not have a negative impact on your LPR include baked potatoes, broccoli, carrots, green beans and peas.
Meats and Sweets
You do not have to stop eating meat and meat substitutes if you suffer from LPR, but make sure your diet consists of items like chicken (skinless), extra lean ground beef, fish, London broil, turkey and other low-fat meats. Bacon, chicken fat and skin, sausage, spicy cold cuts and other fatty meats should be on your no-thanks list.
While you do not have to deprive yourself of sweets completely, make sure you're not consuming chocolate or desserts made with large amounts of fats and/or oils. You can have baked potato chips, fat-free cookies and any item that contains no fat or whose fat content is less than or equal to 3 g of fat per serving.
- You do not have to stop eating meat and meat substitutes if you suffer from LPR, but make sure your diet consists of items like chicken (skinless), extra lean ground beef, fish, London broil, turkey and other low-fat meats.
Good Things to Eat if You Have Acid Reflux
Protein Foods & Acid Reflux
Does Weightlifting Cause GERD Symptoms?
Dealing with Acid Reflux: Best Foods to Eat
Foods to Stay Away From With a Bad Esophagus
Diet to Help With an Esophageal Sphincter Problem
Acid Reflux and Regurgitation
Jaw Ache & Reflux
Is Peanut Butter Bad for Gastric Reflux?
Foods That Don't Cause Heartburn
- Acid reflux (GER and GERD) in adults. niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/acid-reflux-ger-gerd-adults
- Diet changes for GERD. (2017). aboutgerd.org/diet-lifestyle-changes/diet-changes-for-gerd.html
- Farahmand F, Najafi M, Ataee P, Modarresi V, Shahraki T, Rezaei N. Cow's Milk Allergy among Children with Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease. Gut Liver. 2011;5(3):298-301.
- Kahrilas P, et al. (2017). Emerging dilemmas in the diagnosis and management of gastroesophageal reflux disease. doi: 10.12688/f1000research.11918.1
- Kubo A, et al. (2009). Effects of dietary fiber, fats, and meat intakes on the risk of Barrett’s esophagus. doi: 10.1080/01635580902846585
- Shapiro M, Green C, Bautista JM, et al. Assessment of dietary nutrients that influence perception of intra-oesophageal acid reflux events in patients with gastro-oesophageal reflux disease. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2007;25(1):93-101.
- Wang A, Mattek NC, Holub JL, Lieberman DA, Eisen GM. Prevalence of complicated gastroesophageal reflux disease and Barrett's esophagus among racial groups in a multi-center consortium. Dig Dis Sci. 2009;54(5):964-71.
- Wu P, Zhao XH, Ai ZS, et al. Dietary intake and risk for reflux esophagitis: a case-control study. Gastroenterol Res Pract. 2013;2013:691026.
Jim Radenhausen is a freelancer who began writing professionally in 1998. A resident of Reeders, Pa., he spent over two years working at the "Eastern Pennsylvania Business Journal." Radenhausen received his bachelor's degree in English/professional writing from Kutztown University in 1997.