Pros and Cons of the Acid Reflux Diet

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Acid reflux is a common condition that causes many uncomfortable symptoms, including a tight chest, a burning sensation in the chest or throat, a bitter taste in your mouth, and more. When acid reflux is chronic, it’s called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Your diet may be a huge contributor to your symptoms, especially if you eat a lot of spicy, tangy, or acidic foods. 

The acid reflux diet may help you identify trigger foods after a temporary elimination phase. It’s not a surefire way to eliminate symptoms , but if you do discover trigger foods, you may want to avoid them for the most part. Keep reading to learn about the pros and cons of the acid reflux diet to decide if it’s right for you. 

Pros

  • Nutritionally well-rounded

  • Not necessarily restrictive

  • Not cost-prohibitive

  • Plenty of recipes available

  • Generally safe for all populations

Cons

  • May force you to give up some of your favorite foods

  • Doesn’t work for everyone who has acid reflux

  • May feel restrictive during elimination phase

Pros

As far as diets go, the acid reflux diet is pretty well-rounded, especially once you consider the fact that it’s designed for a particular population. From cost to nutrition to sustainability, the acid reflux diet proves itself as a generally healthy diet that is safe for most people. 

General nutrition

You shouldn’t feel deprived on the acid reflux diet, because you’ll still be able to eat a wide range of foods to keep you satisfied and prevent boredom. The acid reflux diet doesn’t present any glaring nutrient deficiencies and encompasses all the food groups recommended in the US Dietary Guidelines .

In many ways, the acid reflux diet is similar to the Mediterranean Diet. You’ll eat plenty of vegetables and leafy greens, whole grains, and low-fat proteins — and some research suggests that the Mediterranean diet might be as effective as medication in treating patients with GERD, the chronic version of acid reflux. 

Sustainability and Practicality

Because the acid reflux diet allows you to enjoy a variety of foods, you shouldn’t find it difficult to adhere to long-term. The initial elimination phase is only temporary, and even then, you won’t find yourself skipping dinner parties with friends — as long as you make smart choices, this diet won’t preclude you from eating at restaurants, office potlucks, family gatherings, or other social activities.

Once you identify your triggers, you will probably be motivated to avoid them so as to avoid symptoms. 

Who the Diet Is For

The acid reflux diet is designed for a specific group of people: those who have acid reflux. For that reason, it’s probably the most effective choice for targeting that exact condition. Cutting the non-compliant foods from your diet, such as spicy foods and caffeine, may help reduce or eliminate the uncomfortable side effects associated with acid reflux. 

Energy and General Health

After spending some time on the acid reflux diet, you should notice that you feel better overall. You might feel more energized, motivated, and productive; you might get better sleep and be in a better overall mood, and you might even feel physically stronger. This is because you'll have started fueling your body with nutrient-dense foods that maximize all your body’s physiological processes and help regulate hormones . 

Cost

This diet isn’t cost-prohibitive at all: On the acid reflux diet, you can make plenty of meals with basic ingredients from any grocery store. In fact, the acid reflux diet might actually help you save money. If you tend to eat fast food or take-out a lot, you’ll need to find healthier alternatives on the acid reflux diet, so you may save a few bucks by not running through a drive-thru a few nights a week. 

Cons

Overall, the acid reflux diet is suitable for most people, especially those with acid reflux who are looking to minimize symptoms. However, all diets have drawbacks — the acid reflux diet is no exception. Here are a few cons to consider before getting started with the acid reflux diet. 

General Nutrition

As discussed above, the acid reflux diet isn’t intended to be restrictive, but there are always risks with any elimination-style diet. You’ll need to cut out foods that can exacerbate reflux symptoms, at least temporarily, so it’s helpful to work with an expert.

A physician or registered dietitian can ensure that you maintain nutrient balance and satisfaction, with no feelings of deprivation. 

Sustainability and Practicality

Again, you’ll be allowed to eat many different foods on the acid reflux diet, which makes it easy to adhere to long-term. However, in the beginning, you may find yourself missing some of your favorite foods.

For example, if you normally eat pizza several times per week and cut it out for the acid reflux diet because it’s high-fat and contains tomato sauce, you may feel disheartened when you can’t eat pizza at a ball game, party, or another event. 

Who the Diet Is For

As previously discussed, the acid reflux diet is designed for a particular population. While it’s generally balanced and safe for everyone, this diet might not work for you if you have other goals.

For instance, the acid reflux diet isn’t necessarily intended to help people lose weight, so you should choose another diet if weight loss is your main goal. 

Energy and General Health

Once you get used to the new eating pattern you’ll follow on the acid reflux diet, chances are you’ll feel better than ever. However, in the beginning, you may find yourself moody and frustrated. Abruptly eliminating foods from your diet is bound to cause cravings, especially if you spend a great deal of time and energy thinking about the foods you can’t have. 

Cost

Overall, the acid reflux diet isn’t expensive, but some recommended foods can be pricey. For instance, the diet emphasizes lean cuts of meat, which are often more expensive than their higher-fat counterparts. You’ll also need to purchase lots of fruits and vegetables, which may seem costly if you’re used to buying low-priced processed foods like sugary cereal or chips and salsa. 

A Word From Verywell

While the acid reflux diet is generally safe for all populations, it’s always best to consult your doctor or dietitian before beginning a new diet plan. They will be able to best advise you on whether the acid reflux diet is right for you. 

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Article Sources

  1. Katz PO, Gerson LB, Vela MF. Guidelines for the diagnosis and management of gastroesophageal reflux disease. Am J Gastroenterol. 2013;108(3):308-28.

  2. Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015–2020 8th Edition. 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines. https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/.

  3. Zalvan CH, Hu S, Greenberg B, Geliebter J. A Comparison of Alkaline Water and Mediterranean Diet vs Proton Pump Inhibition for Treatment of Laryngopharyngeal Reflux. JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2017;143(10):1023-1029.

  4. Ryan KK, Seeley RJ. Physiology. Food as a hormone. Science. 2013;339(6122):918-9.

Additional Reading

  • Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015–2020 8th Edition. 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines. https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/.

  • Katz PO, Gerson LB, Vela MF. Guidelines for the diagnosis and management of gastroesophageal reflux disease. Am J Gastroenterol. 2013;108(3):308-28.

  • Kubo A, et al. (2009). Effects of dietary fiber, fats, and meat intakes on the risk of Barrett’s esophagus. doi: 10.1080/01635580902846585

  • Ryan KK, Seeley RJ. Physiology. Food as a hormone. Science. 2013;339(6122):918-9.

  • Shapiro M, Green C, Bautista JM, et al. Assessment of dietary nutrients that influence perception of intra-oesophageal acid reflux events in patients with gastro-oesophageal reflux disease. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2007;25(1):93-101.

  • Wu P, Zhao XH, Ai ZS, et al. Dietary intake and risk for reflux esophagitis: a case-control study. Gastroenterol Res Pract. 2013;2013:691026.

  • Zalvan CH, Hu S, Greenberg B, Geliebter J. A Comparison of Alkaline Water and Mediterranean Diet vs Proton Pump Inhibition for Treatment of Laryngopharyngeal Reflux. JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2017;143(10):1023-1029.