When you have GERD, managing your diet should be your first line of defense against your symptoms. In fact, the first thing many medical professionals encourage their patients to do is try to adjust their diets before trying medications or procedures to relieve their symptoms. The reason is simple: GERD and diet are intricately linked. What and how you eat can cause your symptoms to flare up, and people who are overweight are more likely to have frequent GERD symptoms.
Learn more: 5 steps to an effective acid reflux diet
Because managing weight is such an important part of managing GERD, we were interested to read about two recent studies that explore the effectiveness of two popular diet trends: low fat and low carbohydrate.
Low-fat versus low-carb diet: And the winner is…
While they’ve taken on many different looks and names over the years (Atkins, Ornish, South Beach, paleo, and many others), many of the popular diet programs over the last 25 years have fallen into two camps: either low fat or low carb diet plan. A recent study examines which approach yields better results.
In this study, published on August 31st 2014 in the Annals of Internal Medicine, researchers monitored participants for a year while they followed either a low fat or low carb diet plan. Participants in both groups were allowed the same number of calories each day. Dieters in the low fat group had to limit their fat intake, but could eat as many carbohydrates and protein as they wanted, as long as they stayed within the daily calorie limit. Conversely, dieters in the low carb diet plan group were instructed to limit their carbohydrate intake, but could each as much fat and protein as they wanted. At the end of the trial, the study found that the low carb diet plan participants lost 8 pounds more than the low fat diet participants. Furthermore, low carb dieters lost a higher percentage of body fat and had improved cholesterol levels.
Learn more: A heavy burden: GERD and obesity
As with any study, there are certain weaknesses that may have impacted the results. While both groups aimed to consume the same amount of calories per day, researchers admit they couldn’t be certain about the accuracy of the daily/weekly counts. In addition, it’s possible the low carb diet plan participants also reduced their fat intake – as any dieter might be inclined to do – whereas the low fat dieters probably wouldn’t have made a similar adjustment to their carbohydrate intake.
Not so fast…
A second study published on September 1st 2014 in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) had a different conclusion about the low fat versus low carb diet plan debate. This study analyzed data from 48 previous studies on many different diets and concluded that the key to success is sticking with the plan. Their analysis showed that dieters on both types of diets lost an average of 16 pounds when participants persisted on the diet for a full year. Researchers concluded that either type of diet works, as long as you stick with it.
Learn more: What causes GERD? The role of the LES
What this means if you have GERD
Maintaining a healthy weight is critical when you have GERD. While we advocate for the more balanced approach like that of the DASH diet, it’s important to find a plan that you can stick with, so you can manage your weight over the long-term. Keep in mind that weight loss isn’t the only aspect of a GERD-friendly diet. Avoiding your trigger foods, eating small portions, and controlling how and when you eat should all be part of your diet plan. To help you put this all together, we created RefluxMD’s Recipe for Relief: A GERD-friendly meal plan and diet program. We hope you will take a moment and learn more about this proven approach to reduce symptoms and live healthier.