Diet and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) are closely connected in several different ways. Some foods aggravate the symptoms of GERD such as the burning back up, or reflux, of acid called heartburn. Also, eating too much and too fast may make stomach acid back up even worse. Diet and GERD are associated with some common foods that don't always cause noticeable acid reflux in every patient with the condition, as each individual is different.
Spicy foods, onion, garlic, mint and alcohol may cause the muscle between the esophagus and stomach to loosen, which allows excess stomach acid to back up into the throat. This muscle is the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). Unless the LES closes properly, stomach acid is able to leak out and back up.
Highly acidic foods tend to create even more stomach acid in GERD patients, as well as in people with ulcers. Common problematic acidic foods are tomatoes and tomato products as well as citrus fruits. These foods have the highest connection between diet and GERD in terms of causing reflux of excess stomach acid, but not all people with the condition have problems with them. For some GERD and ulcer sufferers, chocolate and sodas are problematic, while these don't pose problems for other patients with the same condition.
Eating too quickly can increase the chance of getting heartburn. Eating meals slowly may help decrease GERD symptoms. Eating too much of any food is another way in which diet and GERD can be connected. Consuming too much at one meal makes the stomach produce more acid to sufficiently break down the large amount of food for digestion. Smaller meals eaten more frequently throughout the day may lessen GERD symptoms.
Maintaining weight rather than being overweight also concerns the diet and GERD. Studies show that even a small weight gain in slimmer people can increase the symptoms of GERD. Overweight and obese people are susceptible to developing GERD.
Keeping a food journal can help GERD sufferers avoid foods or beverages that increase their symptoms. Especially since not all people with GERD, or ulcers, have the same diet triggers, keeping a diary of what was consumed before heartburn occurred can better help pinpoint problem foods. Complex carbohydrates, such as rice, bread and pasta, eaten in moderate amounts with meals are thought to be beneficial for most GERD sufferers since these need less stomach acid to be properly digested.