When we eat, we like our food to stay on its natural course of digestion. Sometimes, though, it doesn’t work that way...and gastric reflux can occur.
“Reflux refers to when whatever is in your stomach, often something acidic, flows backwards up into the esophagus and causes trouble in the process,” says gastroenterologist Will Bulsiewicz, MD, author of Fiber Fueled (Avery).
Reflux can show up in many ways. “The classic symptom of reflux is heartburn, but one could also have a sour taste in the throat, regurgitation of food, difficulty or pain with swallowing, chest tightness, cough, nausea, hiccups, sore throat, voice change or wheezing,” notes Bulsiewicz.
What shouldn’t you eat if you’re prone to reflux?
Bulsiewicz offers a simple notion: “The general rule is that if the food is fun, you probably shouldn’t be eating it.” He adds that you should limit spicy, acidic, fried and high-fat foods, and “of course, alcohol and tobacco should be avoided. Chocolate can exacerbate reflux for some.”
Other foods you should steer clear of are white flour, bread, pasta, pizza, onions, peppermint and citrus, according to Inna Lukyanovsky, PharmD, FASCP, author of the self-published Digestive Reset. She also recommends avoiding carbonated drinks, cooked tomato sauce (especially the canned variety) and foods that are sugary or salty.
Foods That Can Help Ease Reflux
On the other hand, “some foods can feel comforting and are used to help with reflux,” says Lukyanovsky.
Bananas, for example, are a low-acid fruit that “can help those with acid reflux by coating an irritated esophageal lining,” Lukyanovsky says. “Green vegetables are a great option since they are naturally alkaline foods.” Some people find that oatmeal helps, while others feel better eating yogurt.
In general, eating more plants is a good idea. Bulsiewicz cites one study which “found that a plant-based diet was as effective as medication for the treatment of acid reflux.”†
Fighting Reflux with Fiber
One advantage of a plant-based diet: It’s full of fiber.
“To prevent and reverse acid reflux, we want more fiber, and the best place to get it is from whole plant foods: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, seeds, nuts and legumes,” says Bulsiewicz.
What’s more, a Russian study showed that consuming 5 grams of psyllium husk three times a day not only improved acid reflux but also led to better esophageal function and reduced acid exposure.†
“We live in a society where 97% of us aren’t getting the minimal daily standard for fiber,” Bulsiewicz notes.
Other Ways to Prevent Reflux
One of the most important actions you can take to prevent reflux is to have an early dinner—four hours before bedtime, if possible, according to Bulsiewicz. While eating, Lukyanovsky suggests chewing your food slowly.
What’s more, Lukyanovsky cautions, “Do not skip breakfast. Coffee is not breakfast.”
Exercise can also help. Lukyanovsky recommends spinal twists “to help with peristalsis and the digestive process.” She notes that walking before meals can help with reflux issues, but don’t walk or exercise immediately after eating.
Lukyanovsky also advocates doing yoga for stress relief; breathing exercises and meditation may also help in that regard.
When it’s time to go to sleep, Bulsiewicz says that “elevating the head of the bed can be of some benefit. Usually propping up on pillows isn’t enough; you have to actually wedge under the mattress to get the elevation necessary so that gravity plays in your favor.”
†The information provided is not an endorsement of any product, and is intended for educational purposes only. NaturesPlus does not provide medical advice and does not offer diagnosis of any conditions. Current research on this topic is not conclusive and further research may be needed in order to prove the benefits described.
The conditions and symptoms described may be indicative of serious health problems, and therefore should be brought to the attention of a qualified healthcare practitioner.
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**These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.