Acid reflux is a condition that develops when the lower esophageal sphincter does not work properly and allows food and acid from the stomach back into the esophagus. The condition is also called gastroesophageal reflux disease. The most common symptoms are heartburn, difficulty swallowing and chest pain. Several medical treatments--including prescription drugs and medical procedures--are available to treat acid reflux, but dietary changes can also help control symptoms.
Foods to Eat
People with acid reflux can eat most foods, so it's easy to follow a diet that falls in line with Food Guide Pyramid recommendations. Foods from each group--fruits and vegetables, meat, dairy and breads and grains--can all be eaten. Certain foods may even ease the symptoms of acid reflux. For example, low-fat dairy products such as milk or yogurt can help when reflux strikes. Just be sure to avoid whole milk and full-fat dairy products. And almost all meats, vegetables and grains can be eaten without any trouble.
Foods to Avoid
Certain foods are triggers for acid reflux and can worsen symptoms. These foods include chocolate, dairy products containing whole milk, tomato-based foods, peppermint and other minty foods, citrus fruits and juices and fatty, oily or fried foods. Several types of beverages can also aggravate symptoms, including alcoholic, caffeinated and carbonated drinks and tea. These, too, should be avoided. You may notice that your symptoms worsen after you eat certain foods. When your symptoms flare, think about what you recently ate to see if there are other trigger foods that you need to avoid.
Tips for Eating
Sometimes people with acid reflux find that when and how they eat affects them more than what they eat. For example, eating large meals can cause heartburn, because the stomach becomes distended. You may have fewer symptoms if you eat small meals throughout the day. Also, try not to eat for at least a few hours before lying down or going to bed, because that can make reflux worse. If you have trouble with reflux when lying down, prop yourself up with pillows. Finally, people with reflux should avoid smoking, chewing gum or sucking on hard candy, all of which can make symptoms worse.