Diet and gastric reflux: what to eat and what to avoid to reduce symptoms

Gastric reflux is an annoying condition associated with a burning sensation in the throat that can be controlled through diet. Let’s see what to eat and what to avoid in case of reflux.

Gastric reflux is an annoying condition that most people experience at least once in their life. This condition is characterized by a sensation of acidity and burning in the throat and is determined by the ascent of gastric juices towards the esophagus. It is a condition that can become chronic, when linked to other pathologies, or that is experienced on sporadic occasions, due to food errors.

Frequently it can occur during the night, since the lying position favors the ascent itself, but in many other cases it is reported immediately after the meal. Anyone who suffers from this condition in a chronic way is often looking for natural or pharmacological remedies to keep it under control: the good news is that very often adequate eating habits and the use of specific foods can help manage gastric reflux.

Stress can also be a cause of reflux, as well as gastritis or irritable bowel syndrome, as it can affect the motility of the gastrointestinal tract.

Finally, a physiological condition during which it is very common to suffer from gastric reflux is pregnancy: in this case the cause is determined by the increase in the size of the woman’s uterus, which pushes on the stomach. Also in this case it is important to contact your trusted specialist and adopt correct eating habits: many drugs commonly used for reflux are in fact not recommended during pregnancy. Let’s see now, instead, what to eat and what to avoid to keep this disorder under control.

Gastric reflux: what to eat and drink?

Going deeper into the topic, we can discover that there is a gastric reflux diet, understood as a series of habits and lifestyles that can improve this condition. These indications are especially useful when reflux is linked to poor eating habits, but they can also help in case of pregnancy.

First of all, it is important to remember that very large meals can be linked to delayed stomach emptying and therefore to a greater likelihood of reflux. It is therefore advisable to have small and more frequent meals: 5 or 6 meals a day such as breakfast, lunch and dinner and 2 or 3 snacks. During meals, remember to chew each bite slowly and for a long time, it will help digestion.

These meals must be light and easy to digest: in this regard it is advisable to prefer meals rich in carbohydrates and proteins, while limiting the consumption of fats, which are the longest and most complex macronutrient to digest.

In this regard, frying and the consumption of highly seasoned foods are therefore not recommended, as well as the use of animal fats (eg lard or bacon) for preparations. For the dressing of your dishes prefer the use of raw extra virgin olive oil, so that it can maintain its anti-inflammatory properties.

Apart from very fatty foods (fatty meats, sausages, butter, cream, aged cheeses, etc.) there are no foods not to eat in case of reflux: cereals (for example pasta, rice, spelled, possibly wholemeal) are allowed and recommended, as well as lean meats, lean fish and legumes. Fruits and vegetables are also excellent foods for those suffering from reflux, so good zucchini, carrots, squash, broccoli, salad, apples, pears, bananas, peaches, melon and watermelon. In case of severe inflammation of the stomach and esophagus wall, a situation that can occur after several days of reflux, it is advisable to limit the consumption of very acidic fruits such as citrus fruits and kiwis, in addition to tomatoes. These foods, in fact, can contribute to inflame an already inflamed mucosa.

Recommended cooking

In an anti- reflux diet it is advisable to prefer simple and quick cooking: baking, cooking in a non-stick pan and steaming. Boiling, on the other hand, is not recommended because adding excess water would lead to a dilution of the gastric juices in the stomach and, therefore, to a slowdown in digestion.

Useful drinks

From what has just been said, it is clear that even drinking water or herbal tea during the meal may be not recommended: it is important to concentrate the consumption of liquids away from main meals.

As for drinks, in addition to water (possibly not carbonated) we suggest the use of some herbal teas, to be consumed mainly between meals, which have proved useful in case of reflux: among the best known it is worth mentioning the decoction of mallow with healing action, the herbal tea based on chamomile or lemon balm, which have a soothing and calming action. Other useful herbal teas are ginger, able to reduce some symptoms such as vomiting, licorice herbal tea, which has shown protective effects and myrtle herbal tea, whose use has been compared to that of pump inhibitors.

Gastroesophageal reflux: foods to avoid

In case of gastric reflux there are some foods to avoid, as we mentioned in the previous paragraph. First of all we remember the cooking to be limited : boiling (due to the possible dilution of gastric juices in the stomach) and cooking or preparations that use large quantities of fat (oil or butter), such as frying.

Among the foods to avoid with reflux we find very fatty or long cooked meats, such as sausage, ribs, fatty cold cuts, braised meats or stews. Sometimes even fatty fish such as salmon or mackerel can be more difficult to digest and therefore associated with reflux. Even very spicy or spicy foods can be annoying, as can the consumption of “acid” foods such as citrus fruits or tomatoes (especially when raw). Also avoid onions, packaged fruit juices, fizzy drinks, and chewing gum.

Among the substances to limit in case of reflux we also find alcohol: the consumption of alcohol and in particular their abuse is in fact to be considered one of the possible causes of gastric reflux.

Due to the theine content, which can irritate and thus worsen the symptoms of reflux, it would be better to minimize the consumption of tea bags or leaves. Decaffeinated bottled teas are also not recommended due to their high sugar content. It is also advisable to limit the consumption of coffee and chocolate, which can help increase the likelihood of reflux.

On the other hand, dried fruit deserves a particular consideration, as we know it as a healthy food, suggested by all the guidelines. However, it is a food rich in fat, which we recommend consuming if you like, but without excess. In particular, it can also be included in snacks, avoiding consumption in the late evening, before going to bed for the night.

Gastroesophageal reflux: yes foods and no foods

We have seen together in the previous paragraphs what to eat and what to avoid in case of gastric reflux. Below is a summary table that can help you in the management of this annoying condition.

Foods to preferFoods to avoid or reduce
Lean meats (chicken breast, fillet of beef…)Fatty meats (sausage, chicken with skin, pork ribs)
Lean fish (sole, sea bass …)Fatty fish (salmon, mackerel)
Raw EVO oilExcess of seasonings: butter, cream, fried food
Water away from main mealsCarbonated drinks, coffee, tea and alcohol
Fresh or skimmed cheeses and dairy productsFat and aged cheeses
HerbsSpicy spices
Vegetables (not boiled)Raw tomatoes
“Non-acidic” fruit such as apples, pears, bananas, melonCitrus fruits, kiwi, pineapple
Cereals (wheat, rice, spelled etc)

Gastroesophageal reflux: practical example of an ideal diet

If you still have some doubts and you are wondering what to eat during the day in case you suffer from reflux, let’s see together how to build the main meals. We remind you that it is recommended to add a snack between breakfast and lunch, a snack between lunch and dinner and sometimes even a snack after dinner. Meals, in fact, must be not very abundant and dinner must be consumed several hours before going to bed for the night. Let’s now look at a practical example of a diet for reflux.

✓ Breakfast

As for breakfast, we advise you to prefer low-fat foods: if you are used to consuming dairy products, prefer milk or skimmed yogurt. If you love a savory breakfast, you can choose lean and / or defatted cold cuts and eggs with simple cooking. You can accompany these foods with rusks or wholemeal bread, but also with fresh fruit (excluding citrus fruits, kiwi and pineapple).

Examples of breakfast:

  • 1) Lightly toasted bread with defatted raw ham;
  • 2) Low-fat yogurt with a chopped apple and rolled oats.

✓ Lunch

Based on your habits and dietary needs, you can choose a first course, a second course or a single course. Accompany the dish with vegetables, but avoid stewed or high-fat cooking. If you choose a first course you can consume your favorite cereal, possibly seasoned with vegetables or legumes. Conversely, if you prefer a second course, be careful to choose lean meat or fish. If your lunch break is short and you have to settle for a sandwich, be careful not to choose fatty meats and limit or exclude the consumption of sauces.

Examples of lunch:

  • 1) Grilled chicken breast with grilled zucchini;
  • 2) Spelled salad with peas and carrots;
  • 3) Wholemeal sandwich with bresaola and rocket.

✓ Dinner

As far as dinner is concerned, we suggest you have a light and not very abundant meal, especially if you are used to eating it late in the day. In particular, we advise you to limit fatty foods such as cheeses or eggs and be careful to use condiments in limited quantities. In this case too, you can choose a first course or a second course according to your needs, but we advise you not to consume soups and prefer dry dishes.

Examples of dinner:

  • 1) Baked fish fillet + beets;
  • 2) Wholemeal pasta with seafood and zucchini.

Gastroesophageal Reflux: 5 Foods That Help Reduce Symptoms

Finally, there are some foods that can be used in a functional way to improve the symptoms of reflux, in addition to the indications that we have listed in the course of the article.

1. Parsley and cilantro

Among the foods that can help counteract reflux we find parsley, an aromatic herb useful to help and support digestion and, therefore, to prevent the problem. Similar to parsley, coriander is also indicated in case of gastroesophageal reflux due to its calming and digestive properties.

2. Fennel

Fennel is an excellent remedy for gastroesophageal reflux and is able to improve the functionality of the stomach, as well as reduce bloating caused by slowed digestion.

3. Carob flour

Fiber -rich carob flour can improve reflux symptoms. There is in fact several evidences that the consumption of fiber helps to decrease the likelihood of reflux. Carob also has documented gastroprotective activities.

4. Ginger

Ginger is able to facilitate digestion and has anti-nausea properties; this annoying symptom sometimes associated with reflux can therefore decrease. It also has refreshing properties and is able to soothe the painful pangs caused by gastric acidity.

5. Licorice

The use of licorice allows to stimulate the production of mucus in the stomach, so as to increase the protection of this organ from excess gastric juices. Furthermore, thanks to the presence of glycyrrhizin, licorice has anti-inflammatory properties, facilitates digestion and calms the phenomena of belching. It is contraindicated in case of high blood pressure.

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