Foods to Avoid for GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease)

Written by Daisy Whitbread, MScN

GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease) is a disease where acid from the stomach escapes into the esophagus leading to pain near the stomach or chest. Scientific studies still have not found conclusive evidence if GERD can be controlled by dietary changes, but lifestyle changes are often recommended as a first line of defense. (Ref)

Finding the right GERD diet for you will involve experimentation, and it is likely to be something different from person to person. Foods which can trigger acid reflux include fatty fried foods, chocolate, coffee, tea, sodas, and onions. In addition to avoiding those foods, other lifestyle factors such as weight loss and eating smaller meals can help alleviate GERD. Below are the details on foods which trigger acid reflux, and more information on possible GERD complications.

#1: Fatty Foods and Meals
Two group of study participants where given meals of equal volume, protein, and carbohydrate. The group with a more fatty meal experienced higher stomach acidity, and more reflux. Limiting high fat foods would be avised to reduce reflux symptoms. Read more about the study. List of High Fat Foods.

#2: Chocolate
Chocolate not only increases acidity in the stomach, but can also relax the sphincter (door) between your stomach and espophogus, leading to even stronger acid reflux symptoms. It is sad news for chocolate lovers, but limiting/avoiding chocolate when you have GERD will probably help you feel better. Read more about the study.

#3: Coffee, Tea, and Caffeine
Both coffee and tea are acidic and can increase symtpoms of reflux. Caffeine is also thought to contribute to increase reflux, however, the actual effect of pure caffeine may be limited.Ref Read more about the study.

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#4: Beer, Wine, and Alcohol
Most alcoholic drinks are acidic, and alcohol appears to increase symptoms of acid reflux. Particularly if consumed in large amounts. Read more about the study.

#5: Carbonated Drinks and Sodas
With carbonated beverages generally being acidic, and being able to increase the "volume" of fluid in the stomach, it is worth "testing" carbonated beverages to see how they affect your acid reflux. Studies are not conclusive if carbonated beverages make reflux worse, and they may even make reflux better. Read more about the study.

#6: Onions
In a controlled study, patients who already had acid reflux felt a significant increase in reflux symptoms after eating onions with a hamburger, vs those who simply ate a plain hamburger. Try avoiding onions to see if your reflux symptoms improve. Read more about the study.

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Other Factors Which Affect Gastrointenstinal Reflux Disease (GERD)

Other complications with GERD

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Data Sources and References

  1. Body weight, lifestyle, dietary habits and gastroesophageal reflux disease
  2. A Comparison of High and Low Fat Meals on Postprandial Esophageal Acid Exposure
  3. Chocolate and Heartburn: Evidence of Increased Esophageal Acid Exposure after Chocolate Ingestion
  4. Caffeine and Acid Reflux
  5. Coffee and Gastrointestinal Function: Facts and Fiction: A Review
  6. Hiatal Hernia and Acid Reflux Frequency Predict Presence and Length of Barrett's Esophagus
  7. Systematic review: the effects of carbonated beverages on gastro-oesophageal reflux disease
  8. The Effect of Raw Onions on Acid Reflux and Reflux Symptoms