Reflux and diet

What is reflux?

Also known as heartburn, reflux is a condition that is caused by a back-up of stomach acid into the oesophagus.

When stomach acid comes into contact with the walls of your oesophagus if can cause a burning feeling, and over time degrade the wall lining.

How to stop/reduce your reflux...

1. Aim for a healthy weight

If you are carrying extra weight this can place stress on your digestive tract, influencing your reflux. A few tips on methods to help with weight loss include:

  • - Keeping a food diary

  • - Aiming for at least 2 serves of vegetables at each meal

  • - Avoiding sugar sweetened drinks, and choosing water or tea

  • - Exercising for 30 minutes daily

  • - Eating off a smaller plate

  • - Aiming for at least 2 vegetarian meals per week

  • - Choosing wholegrains like quinoa, grainy bread, brown rice and wholegrain/pulse pasta

2. Avoid foods that trigger reflux

This is a list of foods that are well known to trigger reflux. 

  • Alcohol

  • ​if you're not going to avoid alcohol... eat before you drink, drink less and drink water between each beverage

  • Chocolate

  • High fat & greasy foods

  • Carbonated/ fizzy drinks 

  • Peppermint and spearmint

  • Tomato based sauces

3. Limit these foods

These foods can trigger reflux in some people.

  • Spicy foods

  • Citrus fruits

  • Onions & some high FODMAP foods

  • Coffee

  • Caffeine

  • Excess protein foods

  • Tomatoes

Keep a food-symptom diary

Not everyone with reflux responds to the above listed (avoid/limit) foods. You are best to keep your own food-symptom diary and make note of when you’re reflux symptoms are exacerbated.

4. Follow these good food behaviours

a) Meal size

- Avoid large meals (greater than 2 cups of food at once)

b) Aim to include small meals across the day

- For example, a small breakfast, morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea & dinner meal

- Avoid just eating 3 large main meals

c) Eat your meal slowly

d) Chew your food really well

e) Eat your meal sitting down at a table

f) Try not to drink too much while you are eating; small sips are best

g) Avoid talking and eating at the same time

h) Avoid eating within 2 hours of lying down or going to bed

5. A general guide to meal planning to prevent reflux

  • Keep it low in fat, especially unhealthy fats 

  • Include small amounts of lean protein 

  • Include more plant-based foods, such as vegetables and legumes

6. Lifestyle tips that can help with your reflux

  • Exercise: Include low to moderate exercise daily

  • Sleeping: Use a few extra pillows to keep you on an upright angle while you sleep

  • Also, sometimes lying/sleeping more on your left side can help

  • Stress management: Do not eat when you are stressed and have some strategies in place for when you do get stressed (e.g. meditation, yoga, swimming, a funny movie, music, etc.)

  • Avoid smoking

8. These tips may also help

  • Herbal non-caffeinated teas such as camomile may be helpful

  • Liquorice may help

  • Skim/low fat and/or almond milk can be helpful

  • Drink at least 2 litres of water each day

  • Wear loose clothing

9. Medications

A note on antacid medications (e.g. nexium). These can be useful in the short-term, however can cause further consequences if used for long periods. Make sure you discuss your reflux treatment plans with with your doctor.