Heartburn is a condition that many people will experience at least once in their lifetime. More than just a minor nuisance, this uncomfortable burning sensation can sometimes creep up into your throat — leaving an unpleasantly bitter taste. The pain caused by heartburn can range from mild to so severe that it’s sometimes mistaken for heart attack pain.
And heartburn is a symptom of acid reflux, which occurs when stomach acid flows back up into your esophagus — the tube that connects the throat and stomach. In some cases, acid reflux progresses to gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), or a more serious form of reflux. Common signs of GERD include frequent heartburn, coughing, wheezing, chest pain and regurgitation — particularly at night.
While over-the-counter and prescription medicines are available, lifestyle changes can sometimes help those with only occasional acid reflux. The Mayo Clinic advises losing excess weight, eating smaller meals, and avoiding alcohol and nicotine. But dietary tweaks also can be key when trying to alleviate symptoms.
Here are five foods to try.
1. Bananas. This low-acid fruit can help those with acid reflux by coating an irritated esophageal lining and thereby helping to combat discomfort. Due to their high-fiber content, bananas also can help strengthen your digestive system — which can help ward off indigestion. One soluble fiber found in bananas is pectin, which helps move stomach contents through your digestive tract. And that’s a good thing — because food that sticks around will only continue to generate acid.
2. Melons. Like bananas, melons also are a highly alkaline fruit. They are a good source of magnesium, which is found in many medicines for acid reflux. Furthermore, melons have a pH of 6.1, making them only mildly acidic. Especially good are cantaloupe and honeydew melon.
3. Oatmeal. Like other high-fiber foods, oatmeal may help stave off acid reflux symptoms. Fiber not only promotes intestinal health, but it also reduces constipation and makes you feel full a long while after eating it. And, of course, when you feel full, you are less likely to overeat and therefore less likely to regurgitate what’s in your stomach into your esophagus. Enjoy your oatmeal with low-fat or almond milk, as both are low in fat and highly alkaline.
4. Yogurt. Like bananas, yogurt has a soothing effect that helps keep stomach discomfort at bay. It also contains probiotics, a type of good bacteria found in the digestive tract that gives a boost to your immune system. Being a good protein source means yogurt also improves your ability to properly digest food. Make yogurt even more impactful by adding in a bit of ginger, which can act as an anti-inflammatory in your system.
5. Green Vegetables. If you like green vegetables and have acid reflux, you’re in luck. Asparagus, spinach, kale and brussels sprouts all are highly alkaline, meaning they’re good for your stomach and digestive system. Being naturally low in fat and sugar, vegetables also help lessen stomach acid.
In the end, make sure to speak with your doctor if you have questions about what kinds of foods should be part of your diet. Some foods may help alleviate symptoms in one person but aggravate them in another. Make sure to work with your doctor to come up with an individualized plan that’s right for you.