A Good Acid Reflux Diet Should Not Be Kept Quiet
Acid reflux, or heartburn, is a condition that occurs when acid flows from the stomach back into the esophagus, and sometimes into the throat. The condition most commonly occurs when the valve at the base of the esophagus, called the lower esophageal sphincter, malfunctions, allowing acid to escape from the stomach. Over time, this sphincter can become weakened, allowing acid reflux to occur more frequently.
To reduce the stress on the lower esophageal sphincter, and so reduce the occurrence of acid reflux, many men and women are embracing an eating plan known as the “acid reflux diet.” Basically, this diet is a carefully considered meal plan that focuses on making healthy food choices, and includes recipes that make use of foods that are not likely to cause acid reflux, while limiting food that may cause acid reflux, and eliminating entirely those foods which are known acid reflux triggers.
As with any diet, the key to success with the acid reflux diet is to plan ahead, when grocery shopping, making meals at home, and eating at restaurants, at work, or at school.
There are numerous books and websites that are devoted to the creation of meals, and even entire menus, which are based on the precepts of the acid reflux diet. Following are a few tips for making the most of the acid reflux eating plan, including tips for packing lunches for school or work that can help decrease that likelihood that you, or your child, will experience the pain and burning of this condition.
- Skip the chips – unless they’re baked. Chips that are fried, like regular potato chips, are major contributors to acid reflux. Choose baked chips or low-fat or fat-free pretzels instead. Or, add raw vegetables with a fat-free dip, or a crunchy apple.
- No PB&J. Peanut butter is very high in fats, and a known cause of acid reflux. When making sandwiches, choose low-fat meats and low-fat or soy cheeses. Skip the butter, mayo, and mustard, and opt for a fat-free or low-fat spread, like hummus or a yogurt-based butter substitute.
- Chew gum. Chewing gum after you eat helps produce saliva, which in turn helps speed digestion. Gum chewing also increases the rate of swallowing, which can help keep the esophagus clear of acid. And, the chewing motion actually increases peristalsis, the contractions of the digestive tract which help food digest more quickly and effectively.
- Avoid beverages with caffeine, as well as soft drinks and sports drinks. All are known to exacerbate acid reflux. Instead, choose 100% fruit juice or water. Skim milk is another good choice – but avoid chocolate milk, which can also cause acid reflux to occur.
- Instead of pudding for your child’s lunch, think low-fat yogurt. It’s much less likely to cause acid reflux to occur.
- Read your labels. Many rolls and breads are full of fats, which can cause a flare-up of acid reflux. Look for low-fat breads and rolls that are made from whole grains, since these digest more easily.
- Drink water while eating meals. This helps in three ways: first, water helps aid in digestion; second, water keeps the esophagus clear of acid; and third, water will help you feel full faster, which can help keep you from stuffing your stomach with too much food. This technique also aids in weight loss, which can also decrease acid reflux.
- Wear loose clothing. Clothing that constricts the abdomen or waist area can put pressure on the lower esophageal sphincter, causing acid to reflux.
How and when you eat can also determine your likelihood of experiencing acid reflux. Because acid reflux is more likely to occur when the stomach is very full, resulting in pressure on the lower esophageal valve, the acid reflux diet involves eating smaller meals to reduce this pressure. In addition, these smaller meals should be eaten more frequently. By eating more often, the stomach actually digests food more effectively, clearing food and acids from the stomach more easily than when meals are eaten infrequently.
Don’t eat within two hours of going to bed. Keeping your stomach fairly empty means acids are less likely to reflux during sleep, when the lower esophageal sphincter may be more relaxed.