Most people treat their acid reflux symptoms with various medications designed to lower stomach acid. Antacids (like Tums and Rolaids), H2 blockers (like Pepcid AC and Tagamet HB), and proton pump inhibitors (like Nexium and Prilosec HTC) all have one goal: to reduce the amount of acid in the stomach. If these drugs decrease stomach acid entering the esophagus (refluxing) from below, then it stands to reason that a diet tips comprised of low acid food and liquids could reduce symptoms, too. If the esophagus is already irritated from GERD, highly acidic foods are likely to irritate it further.
Study suggests a low acid diet may relieve the symptoms of acid reflux
A research study published in the Annals of Otology, Rhinology & Laryngology in 2011 suggested that a low acid diet might provide some relief. Although there is limited science to support this study, diet programs like the Alkaline Acid Diet and the Induction Reflux Diet are adding credibility.
The research study tracked twenty adults, twelve males and 8 females with an average age of fifty-four, thought to have laryngopharyngeal reflux (LPR) who were not responding to traditional treatment (i.e. acid reducing medications). LPR consists of symptoms in the throat such as cough and hoarseness caused by reflux.
The patients were required to maintain a very restrictive low acid diet, which meant eliminating all food and drink with a pH less than 5. This “Induction Reflux Diet” was mandated for two weeks or until a follow up visit was scheduled with the researcher.
The results were impressive. Nineteen of the twenty adults improved, and three of the adults reported a complete absence of symptoms. One individual reported more severe symptoms.
Is a low acid diet right for you?
Since you are unique, there is no real way to predict if this diet will provide you with similar benefits. However, the study author stated that a strict, low acid diet presents no risk of harm and that it is a logical extension of traditional diets recommended for those suffering from reflux disease. In general, the diet is fairly simple:
- One cup of coffee daily; consider low-acid coffee
- No citrus
- No carbonated beverages
- Exclusion of any trigger foods (eggs, apples, chocolate, tomatoes, peppers, hot sauces)
- No fatty foods (meats, sauces, cheese) initially, but limited amounts after a few weeks
- Low fat milk
- Breakfast cereals, oatmeal and honey
- Beans, vegetables, whole grain breads, crackers and non-fruit bagels
- Turkey and chicken (without skin)
- Pasta (with non-acid sauces)
- Homemade soups, especially vegetable
- Tossed salad with vinaigrette (1 tablespoon)
- Melons, bananas
- Potatoes and rice
- Lots of water (neutral pH of 7, so more is better!)
Acidity (pH) of common foods
RefluxMD suggests that you research the pH of foods that you like to determine if they have a pH of 5 or more (1-6 is acidic, 7 is neutral, and 8 – 14 is alkaline). This chart includes some common items to get you started, but more information is readily available on the Internet. With a little knowledge and some planning, you might just find that a low acid diet is the answer to your symptoms.
Learn more about why watching your diet is so critical when you have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD): Why diet matters for ALL people with GERD.
Reviewed by: Dr. Dengler, RefluxMD Medical Director