What is GERD?
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) is a widespread, chronic condition in which the stomach contents leak back into the esophagus. It can cause heartburn and other unpleasant symptoms that typically occur after eating, including chest pain and difficulty swallowing. The most common treatment is to decrease or stop the intake of GERD-causing foods and increase consumption of GERD-reducing foods.
The goal of treatment should not be limited to stopping symptoms from occurring; sufferers should also work towards preventing future damage from GERD. The best way to accomplish both goals is by limiting the ingestion of foodstuffs proven to contribute to it while bolstering one's diet with GERD-friendly GERD-reducing foods.
What foods should you avoid?
The first step towards management should be learning how to eat to avoid. It is a common condition, and there are many triggers; the secret is to cut down on those that make your GERD worse and increase consumption of those that reduce or prevention.
Sodas: Sodas contribute to soda cracker indigestion (reflux/heartburn) in several ways. The carbonation can cause bloating, which puts pressure on the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), forcing stomach contents into the esophagus. Additionally, soft drinks contain high amounts of caffeine, which relaxes the sphincter, allowing GERD-triggering stomach contents into the esophagus. Sodas also deplete saliva's natural ability to clear the esophagus of triggers such as acid and pepsin (a trigger produced in the stomach).
Coffee and Tea: Though somewhat counterintuitive, caffeine can relax the LES and allow triggers like acid and pepsin to enter the esophagus. Coffee seems to cause heartburn faster than tea does, but both may contribute. Additionally, both coffee and tea contain tannic acid that damages cells in the esophageal sphincter, making symptoms even worse.
Garlic and Onions: Routinely eating foods containing high amounts of garlic can cause it in most people. However, it is difficult to generalize which foods contain "high" concentrations of garlic or onion. Acidic foods are much more likely to contribute to it than alkaline foods are, but there are exceptions; some people find that mushrooms make symptoms much worse when other acidic foods do not.
Garlic's active ingredient allicin increases acidity in the stomach, altering pH levels in a way that leads to exacerbated GERDs for specific individuals. To avoid this, eat raw garlic whenever possible.
Spicy Foods: Spicy foods are acidic and can contribute to it. This applies not only to spices but also to chilis, peppers, pepper sauces, etc. To avoid it caused by spicy foods, replace them with ginger, which reduces the acidity of stomach contents. When cooking spicy meals, use the mildest spice possible; e.g., substitute jalapenos for bell peppers.
Juices: Though juice does not technically cause symptoms on its own, beverages high in juice content (e.g., orange juice) do seem to contribute to symptoms. Ingesting liquid with a meal can increase symptoms. To help GERD, drink water or other non-liquid beverages during meals.
Foods containing soluble fiber reduce symptoms by forming a gel when mixed with liquid in the stomach and slowing down how food moves through the digestive tract. This contributes to a reduced incidence of acid reflux because there is less food available for pepsin to break down into acids that damage esophageal tissue. Soluble fiber also reduces fatty acid absorption, making it harder for bile salts to enter the esophagus and trigger symptoms. Soluble fibers can be found in bananas, blueberries, grapefruit, oranges, apples, broccoli, brussels sprouts.
Foods with Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) reduce symptoms by increasing the production of saliva and stomach mucous, which both protect against triggers by washing away GERD-triggering substances. Additionally, ascorbic acid reduces pepsin activity in the stomach. Ascorbic acid can be found in citrus fruits such as oranges and grapefruit, parsley, and strawberries. Eat more vitamin C-rich foods like those listed above.