by Scheinberg D
(Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease Diet; Heartburn Diet)

What Is a GERD?

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a long-term problem with the stomach. Acids that normally sit in the stomach are able to escape up into the esophagus (throat). This causes a burning pain in the chest called heartburn. Over time, these acids cause damage and scarring in the esophagus. Problems are:

  • Burning that starts in the lower chest and moves up the throat
  • A sour or bitter taste in the throat
  • Pain that is worse when bending over or lying down
  • A feeling that food is coming back up

Why Should I Follow a GERD Diet?

Your diet can affect symptoms. Making changes to it will be part of your treatment. GERD that is not managed can cause lasting harm.

Eating Guide for a GERD Diet

Changes in your diet can include food choices and eating habits.

How You Eat

Food moves down the throat and into the stomach. A muscular ring tightens to help keep the food in the stomach while it is digested. This ring is sometimes too weak or we may put too much pressure on it. Eating habits that can help ease pressure on this ring and lower the risk of GERD problems are:

  • Do not eat large meals. This puts extra pressure on the stomach and the ring.
  • Stay upright during and after meals. Do not slouch or lay down during meals. This put extra pressure on the stomach. Sitting up at a table makes it easier for food to move into the stomach and stay down.
  • Do not eat within 3 hours of going to bed. Being upright helps food move down. When you lay down, it is easier for stomach acid to flow out of the stomach and into your throat. People who must lay down should prop their upper body up.
  • Eat slowly. Eating too quickly can make problems worse.
  • Eat in a calm, relaxed place. Stress can make problems worse.

What You Eat

Some foods may trigger your symptoms or make them worse. These foods may not be the same from person to person. Try keeping a food diary. Keep track of what you eat, when you eat, and your symptoms for 1 to 2 weeks. This may help you find what foods trigger your symptoms.

Common triggers are:

  • High-fat foods and fried foods—Fats slow the emptying of food from your stomach. This leaves more time for stomach acid to flow into the esophagus. Even healthier but high-fat foods like 2% milk, nuts, and nut butters can cause problems.
  • Spicy foods, peppers—The chemical that gives peppers their heat also raises stomach acid.
  • Onions
  • Chocolate—Chocolate can relax the opening of the stomach. Stomach acid can then pass into the esophagus.
  • Peppermint
  • Citrus fruits and juices
  • Tomatoes and tomato-based foods, like pasta sauce and chili
  • Alcohol—Alcohol stimulates stomach acid production.
  • Coffee (with or without caffeine)
  • Carbonated drinks

Do not eat foods that trigger your symptoms. Here is a sample menu that shows how you can still eat a variety of foods.

Breakfast Lunch Snack Dinner
Apple Juice (1/2 cup [118 milliliters (mL)])
Whole-grain cereal (3/4 cup [177 mL])
Banana (1/2)
Whole-wheat toast (2 slices)
Jelly or jam (2 tablespoons [29 g])
Skim milk (1 cup [237 mL])
Vegetable soup (1 cup [237 mL])
Crackers (4)
Lean beef patty (3 ounces [86 g])
Hamburger bun
Reduced-calorie mayonnaise (1 tablespoon [14 g])
Mustard (1 tablespoon [14 g])
Fresh fruit salad (no citrus) (1/2 cup [114 g])
Graham crackers (4)
Skim milk (1 cup [237 mL])
Green salad (4 ounces [114 g])
Vinegar and oil dressing (1 tablespoon [15 mL])
Broiled skinless chicken breast (3 ounces [85 g])
Herbed brown rice (1/2 cup [114 g])
Steamed broccoli (1/2 cup [114 g])
Whole-grain roll
Low-fat frozen yogurt (1/2 cup [114 g])
Medium apple
Tip: Coffee at breakfast can increase stomach acid. You may want to try tea instead. Tip: Skip the tomatoes and onions on your burger. Tip: Stick to low-fat dairy products. Tip: Choose low-fat meats, like skinless chicken breasts.

Other Ways to Control GERD

Other steps that may help control GERD:

  • People who smoke should talk to their doctor about ways to quit.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight or obese can make GERD symptoms worse.
  • Do not wear clothing that is tight in the belly. It can put pressure on the stomach.
  • Sleep with your upper body propped up.
  • Chewing non-mint gum can cut down on stomach acid.


American Gastroenterological Association 

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases 


Canadian Institute for Health Information 

Health Canada 


Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: . Updated April 26, 2019. Accessed February 13, 2020.

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Kids Health—Nemours Foundation website. Available at: Updated January 2015. Accessed February 13, 2020.

Treatment overview. International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders website. Available at: Updated September 19, 2019. Accessed February 13, 2020.

Revision Information