GERD is short for gastroesophageal (GAS-trow-ee-soff-uh-GEE-ol) reflux disease.

When we eat, food passes from the throat and into the stomach through a tube. This tube is the esophagus (ee-SOFF-uh-gus). Sometimes it’s called the food pipe.

At the bottom is a ring of muscles that acts as a valve between the esophagus and stomach. This is the lower esophageal (ee-soff-uh-GEE-ol) sphincter (ss-FINK-ter).

These muscles in the lower esophagus can become weak.

Food, smoking, and alcohol may weaken the sphincter, so it may stop closing properly.

The contents in the stomach then may leak back, or “reflux,” into the esophagus. We call this problem “GERD.”

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GERD Signs and Symptoms

Heartburn is the most common symptom of GERD.

When acid in the stomach refluxes, it touches the lining of the esophagus. This can cause a burning feeling in your chest or throat. We call this sensation heartburn or acid indigestion.

You can have heartburn once in a while without having GERD. But if you have heartburn more than twice a week, it’s likely you have GERD.

If you don’t have heartburn, you can still have GERD. People with GERD and no symptoms of heartburn may experience trouble swallowing or hoarseness of the voice in the mornings. GERD also can cause a dry cough and/or bad breath.

Suggested Diet for GERD

Following are foods and drinks to choose and to avoid, as well as a sample menu, to help relieve or prevent GERD.

Spicy foods, fried foods, dairy products, or highly acidic foods can trigger the symptoms of GERD. Lean protein and high-fiber foods can help balance out the harsh effect of acid reflux.

Along with the foods to avoid below, very hot or very cold food can increase reflux.

Beverages for GERD

Choose Avoid
·         Skim or 1% milk.

·         Non-dairy milks such as Almond, oat, or soy milk

·         Decaf, non-mint, and herbal teas.

·         Juices, except those to avoid.

·         Soft drink mixes, such as Crystal Lite.

·         Caffeine- free beverages.

·         Whole, 2%, and chocolate milk.

·         Alcohol.

·         Regular or decaf coffee.

·         Tea that has caffeine.

·         Mint tea.

·         Soda, pop, or carbonated beverages.

·         Citrus juices and drinks such as orange, grapefruit, lemon, lime, and pineapple.

Grains and starches for GERD

Choose Avoid
·         All breads and grains prepared with low-fat content.

·         Potatoes

·         Sweet Potatoes

·         Any prepared with whole milk or high-fat content, such as sweet rolls, muffins, biscuits, and croissants.

Fruits and vegetables GERD

Choose Avoid
·         All vegetables, except those to avoid.

·         Any fresh, canned, or cooked fruits, except those to avoid.

·         Fried or cream-style vegetables.

·         Tomatoes and tomato sauce.

·         Citrus fruits such as oranges, grapefruit, lemons, limes, and pineapples.

Soups and seasonings for GERD

Choose Avoid
·         All herbs and spices, except those to avoid.

·         Fat-free broths.

·         Homemade soups with lean meat, allowed vegetables (no tomatoes), and skim milk.

·         Cream, cheese, or tomato-based soups.

·         Herbs and spices found in tomato sauces such as basil, oregano, and garlic.

·         Chili and jalapeno peppers.

·         Vinegar.

Meats and proteins for GERD

Choose Avoid
·         Baked, boiled, or broiled beef, pork, lamb, veal, skinless poultry, or fish.

·         Low-fat lunchmeats.

·         Cooked dried beans and peas.

·         Peanut butter, if tolerated.

·         Eggs.

·         Low-fat cheeses.

·         Beans and Tofu

·         Other plant based meat substitutes like Impossible or Beyond burger

·         Fatty or fried beef, pork, lamb, veal, poultry, and fish.

·         Fried eggs.

·         Bacon.

·         Sausage, hot dogs.

·         Pepperoni.

·         Fatty lunchmeats.

Fats and oils for GERD

If you have GERD, be sure to limit your fat and oil intake to only three servings per day.

Choose Avoid
·         Butter and margarine.

·         Vegetable oils.

·         Mayonnaise.

·         Mildly seasoned salad dressings.

·         Plain cream cheese.

·         Fried foods.

·         Cream sauces and gravies.

·         Highly seasoned salad dressings.

·         Bacon fat, ham fat, lard, and salt pork.

·         Nuts.

Sugars, sweets, and desserts for GERD

Choose Avoid
·         Sugar, honey, jelly, jam, syrup, marshmallows.

·         Angel food cake.

·         Non-fat or low-fat pudding, custard, ice cream, frozen yogurt, sherbet.

·         Low-fat cookies.

·         Gelatin made from allowed foods.

·         Sweets and desserts with chocolate, peppermint, or spearmint (including flavoring).

·         High-fat pastries.

·         Nuts.

·         Hard or cream-filled candy.

·         Chewing gum.


Sample Menu for GERD Diet

Breakfast ·         3/4 cup cereal

·         1 cup skim or 1% milk

·         1 egg, poached

·         1 slice toast or bread

·         1 teaspoon margarine

·         Caffeine-free drink

Mid-Morning Snack ·         1/2 cup canned fruit (non-citrus) or 1 small, fresh fruit (non-citrus)
Lunch ·         3 oz. chicken

·         1/2 cup rice

·         1/2 cup spinach

·         1 teaspoon margarine

·         1/2 cup fruit juice (non-citrus)

Mid-Afternoon Snack ·         5 saltine crackers

·         1/4 cup low-fat cottage cheese

Dinner ·         3 oz. baked fish

·         1 medium potato

·         1/2 cup carrots

·         1 teaspoon margarine

·         1 cup skim or 1% milk

·         Water

Other Tips for Managing GERD

Here are a few other tips for managing your GERD symptoms:

  • Avoid eating large meals, especially late at night.
  • Avoid smoking.
  • Avoid alcohol and coffee.
  • Avoid very hot or very cold foods.
  • Maintain a good, upright posture while eating.
  • Avoid certain medicines, such as aspirin
  • Achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
  • Avoid wearing clothes that are tight around the belly while eating.

Learn more about GERD treatment at UPMC’s Esophageal and Lung Surgery Institute.

Editor's Note: This article was originally published on , and was last reviewed on .

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