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Heartburn/GERD Treatment: Diet

In addition to drug therapy, patients with GERD are encouraged to make lifestyle changes. Many people are able to control their symptoms by making simple changes in the diet and eating habits. Controlling severity and frequency of acid reflux can be done by avoiding foods that may trigger heartburn, proper meal timing and watching your meal sizes.

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Foods to Avoid

Many food items are known to trigger heartburn or worsen GERD. Staying away from these foods will reduce the likelihood of suffering from heartburn and the complications of acid reflux. Below are the known 'trigger' foods that you should avoid.

Foods with high fat content. High fat foods stay in the stomach longer, this means that more acid will be produced to digest them. Patients with GERD should avoid:

  • High-fat meats
  • Butter and margarine
  • Mayonnaise
  • Creamy sauces
  • Salad dressings
  • Whole-milk dairy products
  • fried or greasy foods

Foods that stimulate acid production.

High stomach acid content can bring on or worsen acid reflux symptoms. The following food items are known to stimulate acid production:

  • Caffeinated drinks
  • Carbonated beverages
  • Alcohol
  • Spicy foods
  • Black pepper
  • Citrus fruit and juices
  • Tomato juice

Foods to Eat

Managing acid reflux with diet requires planning meals and selecting food items. You need to be careful in choosing foods. Make sure your meals will Include foods that do not make your symptoms worse than before. If you are not sure which food can trigger the symptoms of acid reflux, then you should consider taking note of your reactions on different types on food by making a food journal. Write down everything you eat and any discomfort that you experience. This is a good way to identify which foods to avoid.

Below is a list of some of foods that are pretty much safe for heartburn sufferers to eat. Refer to this as a guideline only. Although these foods are considered safe for most people, one should not assume its accuracy. Not all food items produce the same results for everyone.

  • apples
  • baked potato
  • bananas
  • bran
  • bread, multi-grain or white
  • broccoli
  • cabbage
  • carrots
  • corn
  • egg white
  • fish, no added fat
  • green beans
  • lean meat such as skinless chicken breast
  • low fat cheese
  • low fat salad dressing
  • oatmeal
  • peas
  • rice, brown or white

Meal timing and meal sizes

When you eat and how much you eat can also play significant part in the onset of heartburn. It's important to remember that if reflux is quite likely to happen when the stomach is full of food. Consider making the following changes:

  • Eat small frequent meals instead of less-frequent big meals. Small amount of food would put less workload on the stomach, this decreases the acid required to digest the food. Consider eating 6 small meals in a day instead of the traditional 3 big meals. Try eating a small breakfast, having a mid-morning snack, light lunch, an afternoon snack, a light dinner and maybe a nighttime snack.
  • Don't overeat. Eating too much of any foods will stimulate the stomach to secret more acids for digestion. Eating in just the right amount will keep your stomach comfortable. * Avoid lying down for 3 hours after eating.


  1. Berdanier, C. Handbook of nutrition and food. 2001. CRC Press

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