If you’re like many acid reflux sufferers, long-term management of symptoms may be within your own control. This article explains what triggers acid reflux symptoms and how to identify the foods that cause acid reflux symptoms and activities that contribute to GERD, so you can begin to control your symptoms.
A sensation of pain radiates up the length of your chest behind your breastbone. The pain can range from a mild dullness to an overwhelming sensation. Sometimes, the discomfort caused by reflux disease is enough to be disruptive of your daily life. But instead of finding the source of the problem, the first instinct of many sufferers is to administer medication to address the pain. A bottle of antacid tablets or a more potent doctor-prescribed remedy is often a first line of defense against acid reflux when it should be the last. For many people, there’s a healthier alternative to these medications and it begins with identifying the foods, beverages, times of day, and behaviors that trigger acid reflux.
If you’re not already aware of them, the first step in avoiding potential triggers of reflux disease is identifying what they are for you as an individual. Trial and error is a quick and simple way to do this, and your symptoms won’t be reluctant about telling you which dietary habits and behaviors give you discomfort. Although some triggers are more common than others, the foods that cause acid reflux are not the same for everyone. So keep in mind that not everyone is prone to the same triggers and what causes your reflux to flare up will be unique to you.
Unfortunately there’s no real way to predict what will cause symptoms until it actually happens. During meal times, keep track of what you’re consuming and when you’re consuming it. Maintaining a diet log is an easy way to do this, allowing you to easily reference the items you had prior to an episode of reflux. Take note of what causes your heartburn and avoid future consumption.
What you eat and drink might not be the only factors contributing to your symptoms. How you consume your meals and what you do immediately after can also play an important role. Eating large meals forces your digestive system to work harder, producing more irritable stomach acid in the process. Exercising after a meal, eating before bedtime, lying down after a meal, or assuming other body positions that assist the reverse flow of digestive enzymes can also trigger symptoms for many people. These strategies and many more are summarized in Recipe for Relief, along with 21 daily meal plans and over 90 GERD-friendly recipes.
Beverages, activities, and foods that that cause acid reflux symptoms
- Eating large meals
- Exercising after a meal
- Lying down on your back
- Eating close to bedtime
- Bending over
- Eating certain foods:
- Carbonated beverages
- Citrus fruits
- Drinks with caffeine
- Garlic and onions
- Spicy foods
- Fatty or fried foods
- Tomato-based foods
Changing your eating habits and making lifestyle changes may not be enough
For anyone with a body mass index that is over 24, making diet and lifestyle changes may not be adequate. We discuss this in an article titled How excess weight is destroying your lower esophageal sphincter (and driving your GERD symptoms). As BMI gets further away from this BMI target, other symptom reducing strategies may have minimal effect. This is because excess pressure on the diaphragm will cause the lower esophageal sphincter to weaken over time and fail. To check your BMI and learn about a GERD-friendly weight loss program, please visit Scale Down for Relief.
If you’re like many who suffer from reflux disease, long-term management of symptoms may be within your own control. Your treatment begins with maintaining a healthy BMI, identifying the foods that cause acid reflux symptoms and activities that contribute to GERD, and avoiding those triggers. You can do this so get started today!
Reviewed by Dr. Chandrasoma, RefluxMD Scientific Director