Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), also called acid reflux, affects millions of people daily. The symptoms can vary, but the most common ones include frequent heartburn, or a burning sensation in the chest, upper abdomen, or throat. Following a modified diet and eliminating certain foods can help alleviate these and other acid reflux symptoms. A GERD diet can be thought of not only as a list of recommended foods for avoiding symptoms, but also as a lifestyle plan for preventing GERD and its complications.
In general, the recommended items on the GERD diet include low-fat and high-fiber foods. One reason that high-fat foods tend to trigger symptoms of GERD is that they often remain in the stomach longer. Doctors also typically urge people to eat more foods that are high in fiber. A recent study claims that participants who followed a high-fiber diet were 20% less likely to suffer from acid reflux. Medical experts suggest trying not only traditional sources of fiber, such as whole grain breads and cereals, but also some newer products, like fiber-enriched pastas.
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The GERD diet can also include most vegetables and fruits. Some people, however, do not tolerate citrus fruits well because of their acidity. Most vegetables are safe, although garlic and onions are two foods that commonly trigger GERD symptoms. Low-fat dairy products like milk, cheese, and yogurt are typically recommended options, along with lean meats, poultry, and seafood.
The same GERD diet probably will not work for everyone. Health experts often recommend keeping a food journal in order to pinpoint and eliminate troublesome foods. The GERD diet can then be tailored to the individual according to the types of foods that he or she can tolerate. For example, some people have no problem drinking coffee or eating citrus fruits, while others have to eliminate them from their diets in order to avoid uncomfortable symptoms.
Following this type of diet is often just one method of preventing GERD. Doctors usually recommend additional lifestyle changes, as well. For instance, most people are advised not to smoke, and to wear loose-fitting clothing to avoid putting unnecessary pressure on the abdomen. Eating smaller meals is suggested, as is remaining upright, instead of lying down immediately after eating. Many experts also suggest that people sleep with their heads elevated six to eight inches (about 15 to 20 cm) by using wooden blocks under the head of the bed. In addition, overweight or obese people are typically advised to lose weight, since pressure on the abdomen from the extra weight is considered another possible contributing factor to GERD.