5 Diet and Lifestyle Measures to Ward Off Heartburn

Dr. Lagergren found that tobacco can increase the time it takes for acidic foods to leave the esophagus. In an analysis of 30 studies, GERD affected around 20 percent of smokers compared to around 16 percent of non-smokers.

Those who did moderate to vigorous physical activity for at least 30 minutes a day were less likely to develop GERD symptoms, the Harvard team reported.

The risk of GERD was reduced in those who did not consume more than two cups of coffee, tea, or soda per day.

For example, those who followed a Mediterranean diet of fruits and vegetables, legumes, fish, poultry, and whole grains, but little or no red meat and other saturated fat sources, were less likely to develop acid reflux.

Genetics can also affect your risk of developing acid reflux, so people with a family history of the problem are best advised to avoid the risks listed above. This also helps protect against leading killers like heart disease, diabetes, and many types of cancer.

If you already have heartburn, there is a lot you can do to minimize the symptoms and possibly avoid them altogether. Instead of eating large meals, eat smaller ones more often. Minimize fatty foods and avoid fried foods and fast foods entirely. A friend uses a hot air fryer to get crispy skin on chicken, but I prefer grilled chicken and skip the skin. Choose lean meat (if you eat meat) and low-fat or fat-free dairy products, and avoid eating them within three hours of bedtime. Also, try to sleep like you are on a lounger with the head of the bed higher than the foot of the bed.

The foods that most irritate many people with GERD are tomatoes and citrus fruits (such as oranges and grapefruit) and their juices, coffee (even decaffeinated for some people), alcoholic and carbonated drinks, spicy foods, garlic, chocolate, and peppermint. I switched to low-acid orange juice a long time ago and only consumed a few ounces a day to dissolve a fiber supplement. I’ve also found instant coffee to be less irritating than brewed coffee, and I only drink the latter with food to protect my digestive tract.

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