Acid reflux diet: foods less likely to trigger heartburn

If you suffer from acid reflux or other GERD symptoms every week, then choosing what to eat can be a real pain – literally! 

There’s a number of ways you can help relieve acid reflux, including diet and lifestyle changes. We’ve put together a guide to some of the foods that may be less likely to trigger acid reflux so you can manage your symptoms better.

DO I HAVE ACID REFLUX?

There are several symptoms associated with acid reflux. The most well-known is the familiar sensation of heat or burning in your chest and/or throat, typically after eating. You may also be suffering from stomach pain. Some other symptoms of acid reflux include:

  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Bringing up hot sour/salty-tasting fluid in the back of your throat
  • Burping and hiccupping more than usual
  • Feeling or being sick
  • Pressure behind the ribs and breastbone
  • Bloating

GERD OR ACID REFLUX?

When you’re researching acid reflux, you’ll often find these two terms being used interchangeably. So, what’s the difference? Acid reflux is when stomach acid and other stomach contents pass back up into your oesophagus through the lower oesophageal sphincter. This sphincter is a valve that opens when you’re eating so food can pass into the stomach to be digested.

GERD (or GORD), short for Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux Disease, is the name given to a condition when a person suffers from frequent bouts of acid reflux. If you’re suffering from prolonged, frequent (most days for three weeks or longer) and severe acid reflux you might be diagnosed with GERD by your GP. The food we talk about below can be used as part of both an acid reflux or GERD diet.

WHAT FOODS TRIGGER YOUR ACID REFLUX?

When it comes to health – especially diet – everyone is different. Foods that can trigger acid reflux or GERD symptoms in some people may be fine for others, and vice versa! If you’re not sure which food has been causing your GERD or acid reflux, it can be helpful to make a food diary where you try cutting out certain things one at a time. 

WHAT FOODS CAN HELP TO PREVENT ACID REFLUX?

While there are a few specific foods that can to help relieve acid reflux, it’s important to understand what sort of food triggers it. Fat, for example, is typically harder for your body to break down, so your stomach may increase production of stomach acid to help with digestion, which can cause your symptoms to flare up. 

When you’re food shopping with GERD in mind you may want to consider low-fat or low-sugar alternatives to your typical purchases. Making sure you’re increasing your fibre intake may also help, as fibre aids digestion. 

It’s important to make sure that no matter what you’re eating, you’re maintaining a healthy, balanced diet that includes all the food groups. You can still have a varied and tasty diet while looking out for acid reflux, and foods for acid reflux don’t necessary have to be boring.

Here’s a list of foods you may find don’t trigger your acid reflux. Remember: while there are some foods that can help acid reflux go away, you should incorporate them into your diet alongside lifestyle changes for more effective results.

A bowl of spinach on a blue table

1. VEGETABLES AND LEAFY GREENS

Naturally low in fat and sugar, certain vegetables may reduce your stomach acid to help combat the symptoms of acid reflux and GERD. The best veggies that may reduce acid reflux are those that are low in acids and high in fibre, such as carrots, asparagus, green beans, celery, broccoli, cucumbers and leafy greens like spinach.

While a lot of vegetables may help relieve acid reflux symptoms, some can exacerbate it, especially chillies, onions and garlic.

2. NON-CITRUS FRUIT

Similar to vegetables, some fruits are less likely to trigger your acid reflux symptoms while some may make it worse. If you’re suffering from acid reflux, you should try to avoid acidic produce and switch instead to less acidic fruits like melons, pears or bananas.

Apples can be good for those suffering from acid reflux, especially sweet red apples. Green apples, however, are more acidic, so may make your symptoms worse: so think carefully when you’re deciding whether to reach for a Granny Smith or a Red Delicious!

Not all fruits can help calm the effects of acid reflux. Citrus fruits can trigger your symptoms with their high levels of citric acid. This means you may want to reduce your intake of oranges, grapefruit, lemons, limes, and pineapples. Tomatoes could also be the culprits!

3. YOGHURT

While it’s better to avoid foods that are high in fat if you’re struggling with acid reflux, yoghurt could help soothe that familiar burning sensation, especially low-fat yoghut. However, because some yoghurt can be high in fat, it can trigger heartburn symptoms in some people.

If you’re lactose intolerant, eating and drinking dairy products like yoghurt can make your reflux worse. We recommend trying dairy-free yoghurt if this is the case for you!

Frozen yoghurt is a great dessert choice for people who struggle with GERD. You could try a low-sugar, low-fat frozen yoghurt topped with high-fibre berries such as raspberries or blackberries. While high in fibre, berries can still be quite acidic, so may trigger heartburn in some people. 

4. EGG WHITES

Egg whites are a versatile food that can be prepared in a variety of ways – from savoury meals to tasty desserts. Low in fat, egg whites are easier to digest, so they may be less likely to trigger your GERD.

However, egg yolks are high in fat, so may increase your chances of getting acid reflux. If you want to include eggs in your diet, you could consider removing the yolks first.

5. SEAFOOD

Just like fruits, vegetables, and egg whites, seafood is relatively low in fat, so is easier for your body to digest, which may mean you’re less likely to have an acid reflux flare. Fish and shellfish contain a lot of key vitamins and nutrients, which makes them a good component of a healthy diet.

If you do elect to eat more seafood to your diet, make sure you grill, poach, or bake it. Frying your seafood introduces more fatty oils into your food, which can make your symptoms worse.

A bowl of oat porridge from above

6. OAT PORRIDGE

Oat porridge has been a part of the human diet for over 32,000 years, and remains a popular breakfast choice today. It’s high in fibre and low in fat, so you may find that this breakfast staple is less likely to trigger symptoms of acid reflux.

Not feeling inspired by plain porridge? There are lots of ways you can add a tasty twist to your breakfast without making it more acidic. Try throwing in some sliced bananas, a handful of berries or a spoonful of honey, which may help to sooth oesophagus irritation caused by acid reflux.

7. BREAD, RICE AND PASTA

If you can eat these foods, they can be a staple of your day-to-day diet. While there is some evidence that a high-carb diet can induce acid reflux, adding more high-fibre foods to your meals can help digestion, which may lessen the likelihood of developing acid reflux. This means eating whole-wheat pasta, brown rice and wholegrain bread for an added fibre boost. 

While pasta can be ok to eat if you’re suffering from acid reflux, often your favourite sauces might not be! As we’ve already mentioned, tomatoes might make acid reflux symptoms worse – so it’s best to swap out tomato-based sauces for a low-fat milk sauce or a broth.

8. LOW-FAT AND PLANT-BASED MILK

Milk can be a key component of many of our diets. However, it may cause your stomach to produce more acid, triggering your acid reflux.

If you drink a lot of milk, you could try swapping out full-fat milk for skimmed or plant-based milk. Today, there’s more choices than ever when it comes to non-dairy milk so you can try a few and find the one that’s best for you. Some plant-based milks are:

  • Oat milk
  • Coconut milk
  • Soymilk
  • Rice milk
  • Almond milk

9. PEANUT BUTTER

The effect of peanut butter on GERD and acid reflux has been debated for some time. Like all foods, it can affect everyone differently, and as a high fat food it may trigger acid reflux in some people.

However, some research suggests that natural, unsweetened, smooth peanut butter can in fact help ease your symptoms, and is sometimes recommended by doctors as part of a diet for those suffering from oesophageal issues.

10. GINGER

Well known as a traditional remedy for sickness and nausea, ginger may also be suitable for easing acid reflux.

This spice is a popular home remedy for acid reflux, and thanks to its versatility you can find a way to consume it that suits you best. It can be made into tea or eaten crystallised when you’re struggling with a flare-up, but it’s also great for adding to dishes for a kick of extra flavour. This can be invaluable – especially if you’re cutting back on spicy foods like chillies or other flavourful additions like onions and garlic.

Three avocados on a pink background

11. HEALTHY FATS

Discussions around “good fats” and “bad fats” have been going on for years. If you’re dealing with the symptoms of acid reflux, you could try to reduce how many trans or saturated fats you’re eating and replace them with “healthy” fats.

Healthy fats include:

  • Walnuts
  • Avocados
  • Sunflower oil
  • Olive oil
  • Sesame oil

12. LEAN AND LOW-FAT MEAT

There’s limited research into the impact of fatty meats on people suffering from acid reflux or GERD. One study suggests that those who eat more saturated fatty acids (often found in certain kinds of meats) were more likely to have a flare-up of acid reflux. 

By now you’ll be familiar with the mantra that fatty foods are harder to digest and so can increase your chances of GERD symptoms. To combat this, you could try sticking to lean or low-fat meat like chicken or turkey.

WHAT DESSERTS CAN I EAT WITH ACID REFLUX?

You’ve got breakfast, lunch and dinner covered, but what about pudding? Here’s our top five desserts for those suffering from acid reflux:

  • Frozen Yoghurt – as we’ve already mentioned, yoghurt can help to begin to soothe the burning pain of acid reflux. Make sure you choose suitable toppings, too – for example, chocolate can trigger acid reflux. 
  • Low sugar sorbet – this frozen treat is a great alternative to ice-cream, and if you look for lower sugar varieties it hopefully won’t trigger your reflux.
  • Fruit salad – especially using low-acid fruits and berries like red apple, banana, melon and blueberries.
  • Angel food cake – made with egg whites (see above) and no butter, it can be a great option for someone struggling with GERD!

LIFESTYLE CHANGES

For many people with GERD and acid reflux, a more reliable way to find long-term relief is through making lifestyle changes.

As well as adopting an acid reflux diet, another good starting point is changing your eating habits. Being overweight can cause acid reflux because your stomach is under more pressure, which can make stomach acid more likely to flow up into your oesophagus. Eating smaller portions as part of a well-balanced diet or taking part in more exercise can help you start to lose weight. 

You could also change how much you eat, and how often. Instead of eating three large meals a day, try several smaller ones – and avoid lying down after eating.

If you find your GERD flares up when you’re trying to sleep or your acid reflux is worse at night, you can try raising your upper body while you sleep using a wedge pillow. You want to ensure that your chest and head are higher than your stomach, which can make it harder for stomach acid to travel up your oesophagus.  

If you have further concerns about acid reflux, or suspect you may be suffering from GERD, speak to your doctor for more advice. 

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