Medically Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on August 04, 2021
What Is It?
When stomach acid flows the wrong way -- back into the tube that connects your throat to your stomach (your esophagus) -- that’s called acid reflux. If it happens often and doesn’t get better, it’s called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Symptoms include chest pain, a cough, and trouble swallowing, especially when you lie down. Sometimes it can bring up bits of food or sour liquid into your mouth.
Food Plays a Role
What you eat can have a big effect on GERD. There’s a long list of foods that you may want to stay away from, including chocolate, onions, acidic foods, and red meat. But other foods may help -- or at least not make it worse.
Lean and packed with protein, chicken breasts are pretty easy to digest. Just make sure to take off the skin and bake or saute them.
This is your best beverage bet if you have acid reflux. Sugary drinks can irritate it, and alcohol and acidic juices can, too. And carbonated drinks can add to your gas and make you burp, which may make things worse.
This root can help calm an upset stomach. Try some hot ginger tea -- without the caffeine that can make acid reflux worse. Or chew on some dried ginger -- just check the label to make sure it doesn’t have lots of sugar. That’s something else that can irritate reflux.
It’s a low-acid fruit that won’t trigger your symptoms. And nothing beats a big wedge of ripe watermelon on a hot summer day. Cantaloupe and honeydew are also good low-acid choices.
Looking for a side dish that won’t aggravate your reflux? This is a complex carbohydrate, which means it takes longer to digest than simple carbs like white rice, pastries, or sugary drinks -- and that's better for reflux. The extra fiber, compared with regular rice, also helps.
Breakfast is full of land mines: Bacon, sausage, pancakes, doughnuts, and greasy hash browns all can make things worse. Oatmeal is a better choice. It’s got plenty of fiber, will fill you up, and is hearty enough to give you energy for hours. But watch the extras: Cream, sugar, syrup, and dried fruit can all trigger symptoms. Go with fresh fruit instead.
These root vegetables are good, and others are, too -- carrots, turnips, and parsnips, to name a few. They’re full of healthy complex carbs and digestible fiber. Just don’t cook them with onions or garlic, because those can irritate your acid reflux.
Your body needs fat to work right, but fatty foods can make GERD symptoms worse. So you’ll probably want to stay away from things like butter or margarine. In their place, try a healthier fat like olive oil to see what might work for you. But you’ll want to have a light touch, because it does have fat and calories.
Lettuce and Celery
Reflux can make you gassy, so skip foods that can make that worse, like beans and dried fruit. Mild veggies like lettuce and celery are healthy, low in calories, easy on your stomach, and they won’t cause more gas.
It has a mild licorice flavor and is low in acid, which can help soothe the upset stomach that can be both a cause and symptom of GERD. You can roast it and serve it as a main course, saute it as a side dish, or slice it raw and add it to a salad.