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Does a Carb Free Diet Help With Acid Reflux?

author image Aglaee Jacob
Aglaee Jacob is a registered dietitian. She has experience working with people who have diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension and obesity issues. Jacob obtained a bachelor of science and a master of science, both in nutrition, from Laval University in Quebec City, Canada.
Does a Carb Free Diet Help With Acid Reflux?
Restricting your carbs could help you prevent acid reflux. Photo Credit Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Frequent acid reflux, also called GERD or gastroesophageal reflux disease, is the result of a backup of acid from your stomach into your esophagus. In addition to the discomfort and burning sensation acid reflux causes, it can eventually lead to serious health problems, such as a change in the structure of your esophagus or even cancer. Maintaining a healthy weight, eating small, frequent meals, not lying down after a meal and restricting your carbohydrate intake can help prevent acid reflux.

Low-Carb Diets and Acid Reflux

The effects of a very low-carb diet, defined as containing less than 20 grams of carbohydrates per day, were studied in obese adults diagnosed with frequent acid reflux. The results from researchers at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, published in the August 2006 issue of "Digestive Diseases and Sciences," showed that a carb-restricted diet helped reduce the amount of time acid was present in the esophagus of the participants in addition to improving most of the pain and other symptoms related to their acid reflux. The diet used in this study was not completely carb-free because it included 20 grams of carbs from nonstarchy vegetables daily, but eliminated grains, starchy vegetables, fruits and sugar.

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The exact mechanism for the effectiveness of low-carb or carb-free diets in the management of acid reflux has yet to be determined. if you are overweight or obese, a low-carb diet can help you lose weight, which can reduce the pressure on your stomach and prevent acid reflux from occurring. However, the positive results found in the UNC study with a very low-carb diet appeared within less than a week, indicates that a carbohydrate-restricted diet may alleviate acid reflux in more than one way. More studies are still needed to replicate these findings and better understand the mechanism.

Carbohydrate Counting

If you want to see whether low-carb eating could help you better manage your symptoms of acid reflux, start counting your carbohydrates. The typical American diet is a high-carb diet, containing at least 200 to 300 grams of carbs a day. The study used a diet of 20 grams of carbohydrates a day, but this was done with strict supervision. Before making any changes to your diet, talk to your doctor to determine the right carbohydrate balance for you.

Carb-Restricted Eating

Most Americans center their meals and snacks around high-carb foods that you will need to restrict or eliminate from your diet to adopt a low-carb or carb-free diet and decrease the severity of your acid reflux. Swap your breakfast cereals, toasts and orange juice for eggs, cheese, tomatoes and mushrooms cooked in olive oil. Serve a salad with chicken, almonds, avocado and a ranch dressing for lunch and pork chops with green beans and butter for dinner. Snack on nuts, slices of smoked salmon, canned tuna, cheese or deviled eggs to keep your daily carb intake low and possibly get rid of your acid reflux.

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