Do you get heartburn from spicy food? Have you ever woken in the middle of the night with acid-reflux? Do you stay away from caffeine because of what it does to your stomach? Acid reflux, also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, affects millions of Americans. If you or a loved one suffers from GERD, we’ve got nutrition information that may provide you with some (acid) relief.


Acid reflux (GERD) occurs when the acidic contents of the stomach pass up into the esophagus, and the sphincter muscle (the barrier between the two) has a defect, so it is unable to block the acid. This is a serious issue and can disrupt sleep and damage your vocal chords and other soft tissues in your throat. Unfortunately, the foods that are triggers for acid reflux, are many of the same foods that are found in abundance during the holidays.

  • Alcohol. Sadly (for some), that wine, beer or favorite holiday cocktail can trigger heartburn, especially when it is imbibed with a large meal. One glass of wine may not trigger acid reflux but more than one could do the trick.
  • Caffeine. Coffee, soda, tea, iced tea, and any other food or beverages that contain caffeine are big offenders. Moderation is the key here.
  • Carbonated Beverages. Sodas and other carbonated beverages increase gastric distension, which can lead to acid reflux.
  • Chocolate. Say it isn’t so! Chocolate relaxes the sphincter, allowing stomach acids to flow back into the esophagus. Boo!
  • Fatty foods. Foods such as cheese, nuts, avocadoes and that juicy rib eye are all fatty foods. Fat slows down the emptying of the stomach, so there is more opportunity to get a big distended stomach -- which increases pressure on the esophageal sphincter -- to make heartburn more likely.
  • Garlic and Onion. This depends upon the individual. Some can tolerate garlic and onion and others cannot.
  • Peppermint. Although peppermint seems as though it would be cooling and soothing for the tummy, it is actually a heartburn trigger food. Skip the after-dinner mints -- especially after a rich meal.
  • Spicy Foods. This can include peppers, chili, and many foods that are loaded with spices.
  • Tangy Citrus Fruits. Oranges, grapefruits and orange juice are classic heartburn foods – especially when eaten with an empty stomach.
  • Tomatoes. They are super-healthy, and bad for many who suffer from GERD.

There are a few other non-diet tips that you can use to reduce acid reflux. Try these:
  • Avoid Late Night Snacking. Wait two or three hours after eating before you lay down to sleep for the night.
  • Avoid Tight Clothing. Do not wear tight clothing around your waistline.
  • Lift With Your Knees. Bending over tends to increase the amount of stomach acid that can get into your esophagus. When lifting, bend your knees (rather than bend from the waist) to avoid putting more pressure on your stomach.
  • Lose Weight. Even five or ten pounds can make a difference.  
  • Raise Your Bed. If heartburn bothers you at night, raise the head of your bed by six to eight inches. You can put the frame on blocks or place a foam wedge under the head of your mattress. Pillows don’t work.
  • Sleep On Your Left. Because of the stomach’s location and position within the body, sleeping on your left side makes it harder for the stomach acids to flow up into the esophagus. When you sleep on your left side, the food in your stomach flows downhill into your intestines.
  • Small Meals. Try eating several small meals instead of two or three large meals.


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