You get heartburn frequently, burp a lot, and sometimes regurgitate your food — you probably have acid reflux, which turns into gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) if you don’t control it.
Acid reflux is when your stomach acid flows back into your esophagus, the tube connecting your mouth and stomach, causing the painful sensation you know as heartburn.
When acid reflux happens often — three or more times weekly — it’s time to seek professional help, and you’ve come to the right place. Dr. Ayub Hussain at Northside Gastroenterology Associates specializes in diagnosing and treating acid reflux and GERD.
As we monitor and treat your condition, you have an important role, too. Namely, you must adjust your diet and lifestyle to minimize your symptoms and resolve the problem.
Here, Dr. Hussain provides comprehensive information about acid reflux and practical tips on managing its symptoms through dietary changes.
The science behind acid reflux
Normally, when you swallow, a band of muscle around the bottom of your esophagus called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) relaxes to allow food and liquid to flow into your stomach. Then it closes again.
However, if your LES weakens or relaxes when it should tighten, stomach acid can flow back up into your esophagus, causing acid reflux symptoms.
The lining of your stomach is designed to protect it from the powerful acid, but your esophagus lining is different. When the stomach acid enters the esophagus, it causes a burning sensation known as heartburn and can also damage the lining.
Dr. Hussain can halt the damage and help heal the tissue, but you’ll need to make some dietary changes. Here’s what’s on the do-not-eat list.
Foods to avoid when you have acid reflux
Certain foods relax your LES and increase stomach acid production, contributing to acid reflux. Here are some foods you might want to avoid:
Citrus fruits and juices
Lemons, oranges, and grapefruits have lots of valuable vitamin C, but they’re almost pure acid and can irritate your already inflamed esophagus.
Tomatoes and tomato-based products
Tomatoes are also incredibly acidic (which is why ketchup makes a great pot cleaner). Steer clear of pizza, lasagna, marinara, and other tomato-based meals and foods to avoid heartburn.
Spicy foods aren’t necessarily acidic, but they stimulate acid production so that five-alarm chili and buffalo wings are off-limits for a while.
Onions, garlic, and high-fat foods
Some foods slow down digestion, leading to an increased risk of heartburn. Do yourself a favor while treating your acid reflux, and say no to alliums like garlic and onions. French fries, fried chicken sandwiches, and donuts can also give you heartburn, so stick with grilled, broiled, and poached foods.
Chocolate contains theobromine, a compound that can relax your LES and allow acid to reflux into your esophagus.
Caffeine and alcohol
Your morning cuppa Joe and your evening cocktail aren’t doing you any favors. Both alcohol and caffeine can relax the LES and stimulate acid production.
Dietary habits and alternatives
While avoiding certain foods can help you manage acid reflux symptoms, incorporating other foods and changing your eating habits can also make a significant difference. Try these tips:
Eat smaller meals
Large meals fill up your stomach and put pressure on your LES, making reflux more likely.
Avoid lying down after eating
Wait at least three hours after meals before lying down or going to bed.
Elevate the head of your bed
If you experience nighttime acid reflux, try elevating the head of your bed by about six inches to prevent acid from flowing back into the esophagus.
Eat alkaline foods
Alkaline foods like bananas, melons, oatmeal, bread, rice, and lean proteins can ease acid reflux symptoms.
If you have persistent symptoms despite making dietary changes, call us. Ignoring acid reflux can lead to more serious conditions like Barrett’s esophagus and esophageal cancer if left untreated.
Dr. Hussain evaluates your condition and treats severe cases with prescription medications. Call Northside Gastroenterology Associates in Houston, Texas, or book online to schedule an appointment.