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Finding the best individual diet for heartburn usually involves some trial and error, because people have different sensitivities to foods. Something that causes extreme heartburn in one person may have little or no effect on another. One does not usually have to give up all of his or her favorite foods entirely. Even foods that typically trigger heartburn and acid reflux can often be enjoyed in moderation. Overall, doctors recommend sticking to low-fat diets rich in fiber and other nutrients. The method of preparation is also important. Dishes that are baked, broiled, or made using other methods that avoid oils and frying are generally preferred. Aside from eating certain foods and avoiding others, individuals can take additional steps to prevent heartburn, such as eating small meals more frequently.
Some trigger foods irritate the lining of the esophagus, while others cause the sphincter muscle between the stomach and the esophagus to become more open, making it easier for acid to travel upward. In general, some of the common foods to avoid when following a special diet for heartburn include acidic foods, such as tomatoes, citrus fruits, and vinegar. A high-fat diet can also lead to heartburn. Furthermore, many people cannot tolerate ingredients like garlic or raw onions in their diets. Caffeine and alcohol are additional heartburn triggers for many people.
The best diet for heartburn sufferers typically entails mostly low-fat foods. Items that are high in fat usually remain in the stomach longer and require more acid production for digestion. For this reason, nutritionists tend to recommend oatmeal, instead of a doughnut, for breakfast, for example. Non-citrus fruits, like apples and bananas, are also considered a healthy part of any low-fat diet. Substituting applesauce for butter or oil in some recipes, for instance, can lower the recipe’s fat content and might help prevent heartburn.
In addition, a good diet for heartburn usually includes an increase in one’s fiber intake. A recent study claims that test subjects who followed a high-fiber diet were up to 20% less likely to have heartburn and acid reflux symptoms. For lunch and dinner, many nutrition experts suggest options such as high-fiber pasta with a broth-based or light cream sauce, instead of tomato sauce. Potatoes, rice, and beans are usually tolerable for most heartburn sufferers. Brown rice is generally preferred, since it has more fiber than white rice. Most beans are also high in fiber, making them a nutritious alternative to high-fat meats.
People who like to have dessert after a meal are usually advised to stay away from high-fat desserts and chocolate — due to its caffeine content — or to have smaller portions. Beverages to avoid commonly include carbonated drinks and anything containing caffeine or alcohol. Even decaffeinated coffee can cause problems for some heartburn sufferers. Most doctors tell people to opt for water whenever possible, which can actually help reduce stomach acid.
Despite eating all of the right foods and adhering to the best diet for heartburn, someone could still suffer from bloating by eating too much at once. Many experts advise eating five or six small meals throughout the day, rather than three large ones. If this is not possible, one could try eating smaller portions at meals. Those who enjoy eating small snacks throughout the day could include items such as crackers, low-fat cheese, and fruit.