Heal thy Heartburn
The acid reflux solution
Portion size and fiber intake are probably the most important aspects of an anti-reflux diet. The truth is, it’s not so much what you eat as how much that determines if you’ll suffer from heartburn. Less quantity overall relieves pressure on your stomach, reducing secretion of stomach acid. At the same time, a higher proportion of fiber will keep what you do eat moving right along. Chronic constipation is often associated with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), and fiber helps promote regularity.
The key is to choose foods that will improve your digestion and reduce both the frequency and strength of heartburn attacks. This means lean meats, chicken and fish, as many natural unprocessed foods as possible, and plenty of fiber from an assortment of fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains. Ginger and fennel also aid digestion. In addition, switch to leaner ways of cooking that call for less fat, butter or oil, such as grilling, broiling, baking or poaching.
Here’s my short course on how to get what you need: Eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables and sufficient, though not excessive, amounts of whole grains. Have at least one piece of whole fruit at breakfast; juice doesn’t count. You can also enjoy a piece of fruit as a snack between meals. As for vegetables, go for at least four different nonstarchy vegetables a day, both raw and cooked. If you’re talking about leafy green vegetables, such as lettuce, arugula, spinach or broccoli, you can eat as much as you like, but choose an assortment and not more than 1 1∕2 cups total at any one time. Many other vegetables are essentially “free” because they should not contribute to GERD; these include cauliflower, zucchini, green beans, sweet potatoes, eggplant, asparagus and artichokes. Beans are a really good source of fiber, but as everyone knows, they can cause gas, which we want to avoid at all costs, so eat only a little— 1∕2 to 2∕3 cup max—at a time.
In addition to fiber, doctors and nutritionists recommend whole-grain and especially whole-wheat products because they are naturally rich in iron, potassium, zinc and many essential B vitamins, and are often fortified by manufacturers. But while the nutrition content of whole wheat is much higher than that of refined, large amounts of whole wheat or wheat berries, or even spelt, can be hard for some to digest and can trigger acid reflux.
Reprinted with permission from The Acid Reflux Solution: A Cookbook and Lifestyle Guide by Dr. Jorge E. Rodriguez (2011). Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, Berkeley, CA.