Low carb can cure reflux disease

Heartburn – caused by reflux disease – is super common, millions of people suffer from it. Many people take medication for it every single day to reduce the symptoms. What if many of these people could cure the disease with a dietary change?

An earlier small study tested a LCHF diet on a few people with this problem, and they got significantly better. Even the pH in their esophagus improved, so it was not just placebo.

Now another, slightly larger, study has tested this idea again. Not only does it find that carbohydrates, sugar and the glycemic load of the diet was associated with reflux disease. They also test what happens when the participants go on a lower carb diet. The result?

chartBig improvements

Incredibly enough, it seems like all the women in the study were able to get off their reflux (GERD) medications… See the chart to the right.

Has a low-carb diet improved your reflux symptoms? Please let me know in the comments below.

More

A low-carb diet for beginners

The study

AP&T: Dietary carbohydrate intake, insulin resistance and gastro-oesophageal reflux disease: a pilot study in European- and African-American obese women

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197 comments

  1. Gentiann
    Years ago, I noticed that tomato sauce with corn syrup would give me acid reflux but the tomato sauce without corn syrup was fine. So, I concluded that the problem was not the tomato.
    After I started avoiding everything with corn syrup, I stopped having acid reflux.
    Coffee with heavy cream is fine but creamer in coffee gives me acid reflux: it's not the coffee, it's the creamer.
    I never had acid reflux with spicy food or dark chocolate. I now believe that additives in processed food are the main problem.
  2. Carole
    Keto is high fat and they say thats bad. How do u deal with eating high fat foods using more oils butter etc. does it bother your reflux. I have lost wt on keto and dont want to stop but dont know what to do with the high fat
  3. Filipe
    Honestly I do agree with you , fat is a trigger to Acid Reflux so I don’t understand how some people get better, any way my Acid Reflux only it’s noticed when I run , because breathing becomes hard due to the effort and the reflux causes bronchial spams that leads me to lack of air. Acid reflux it’s caused because stomach is run in a low acid, so let me suggest you to drink Apple cider vinagre with water twice a day, this will increase the stomach acid and you get better.
  4. Karen
    I've had acid reflux for 10 years after a baby & putting on weight. After experimenting, most carbs rice, pasta, & bread give me reflux. But after a dayofjust meat & veg ...no reflux! I can mix meat & fruit in the same meal...no reflux! But then add the carbs..bang! Reflux! I've had the h. bacteria test and it was negative. & I dont have a problem with fat. On a side note, I've stopped dairy & eggs & my hay fever is basically gone! Basic caveman food for me! Meat, veg & fruit. & I still drink wine, white & red. & seasonal asthma is also basically gone on what I call my caveman diet..can't be a coincidence!
  5. Ann Palmer
    I only seem to get heartburn when I do periods of intermittent fasting. Can Diet Doctor advise if there are any over the counter heartburn medications I can try that won't affect my fasting benefits?
  6. Kristie Sullivan, PhD Team Diet Doctor
    Please use our meal plans to help you! You might also enjoy the free two-week challenge.
    Reply: #165
  7. Rebekah
    I have had GERD for almost 14 years. When first diagnosed was put on all kinds of acid suppressing drugs, none of which worked for me. Luckily I stopped taking them years ago as they never worked. I have silent reflux which is much less researched and understood. I bought an online book that mentioned that candida is the reason people have acid reflux. It recommended a low carb diet. I started a candida cleanse diet, low carb, high fat, no sugar, and within days could tell a change. Pretty upset that I have spent thousands of dollars to find the problem but so glad I stopped taking the drugs years ago. Hope this post helps others understand the true problem. Candidiasis is the root and medical research needs to be looking into that.
    Reply: #174
  8. B
    Hi Sherry,
    Congratulations on your healthy improvements!! Can you please tell me what changes you made?

    Thank you !
    B.

  9. Shannon
    Been on keto over a week now, haven’t had heartburn once. I used to get it daily and took Zantac 150 mg. Haven’t needed to!!
  10. Tracy Murphy
    Me too. have not needed Nexium since I started low carbohydrate diet.
  11. Heather
    I am new to Keto, 3 weeks now....and one of the first things I have noticed is heartburn. I have not had an issue with such high frequency as I do now. Suggestions?
    Reply: #162
  12. Kristin Parker Team Diet Doctor

    I am new to Keto, 3 weeks now....and one of the first things I have noticed is heartburn. I have not had an issue with such high frequency as I do now. Suggestions?

    You may want to keep a food/symptoms log to see if there are specific foods triggering the heartburn. Common culprits are tomatoes, coffee and alcohol. If it doesn't alleviate soon, you may wish to check in with your doctor.

  13. Rebecca Hamilton
    10 days of keto. Averaging about 10 to 16 grams of carbs per day and having a little difficulty making myself eat enough fat to get into high ketosis state, but keto strips show moderate to large state (4 to 8). Stopped acid reflux medication 5 days ago. Such a relief. Not hungry, either.
  14. Helen
    Hi Kristin I’m the same .. 11 days in and in a lot of pain. I don’t have tomatoes, coffee or alcohol .. so wondering if it’s cheese ?
    Reply: #167
  15. Christie
    Hi Kristie! Which meal plan would be best for GERD? Or if it's a basic plan, which foods should be switched out?
    Reply: #166
  16. Kristin Parker Team Diet Doctor

    Hi Kristie! Which meal plan would be best for GERD? Or if it's a basic plan, which foods should be switched out?

    Different people may have different triggers. It can be helpful to keep a food/symptoms log. Common culprits are tomatoes, alcohol and coffee.

  17. Kristin Parker Team Diet Doctor

    Hi Kristin I’m the same .. 11 days in and in a lot of pain. I don’t have tomatoes, coffee or alcohol .. so wondering if it’s cheese ?

    The best way to test would be to eliminate dairy for 3-4 weeks and see how you feel. You can try reintroducing dairy/cheese then if you feel comfortable with it. We have several dairy free meals and meal plans!

  18. Venencia
    Hi, I been doing something like LCHF and intermittent fasting for at least 16 hours a day. Sometimes i have pain on the right shoulder that feels like acid reflux. If i eat something like a small greek salad the pain or acid reflux disappears. It seems its important to listen to your body during the fasting. It seems to me eating when hungry and not super hungry is important strategy, pushing it too much on fasting seems to trigger possibly acid reflux /cortisol hormone but am not in medical field nor have not tested anything.
  19. gill
    I started LCHF two years ago when diagnosed as pre diabetic. I am now 74..
    I had been taking antacids for many years on a daily basis, sometimes trying to get off them but always giving up after a few days. After two weeks on low carb I realised that the reflux and gastric pain had reduced. In fact, I haven't taken an antacid since. So happy. This is what keeps me on the diet nearly more than the lowered HbA1C.
    Thanks , gill
  20. Emma
    I have suffered the symptoms of reflux for almost 8 years. It was so bad in the end that i was too embarrassed to eat in a public place in case I couldn’t actually swallow my food. 40days on keto and I am completely free from medication and zero reflux! I have never felt better!
  21. Rodney
    I was on 3 pills a day for reflex and booked in for surgery, then I started keto and my surgeon has told me I don't need surgery any more and keep up what I am doing. I still take somac from time To time but not every day only around 1 pill every 2 weeks.
  22. Giselle
    The foods that triggered me before keto triggered me after keto. Coffee too frequently. Onion. Tomato. I love keto but my body does not. Even got the stupid rash whenever I was in ketosis. Went through endoscopy and colonoscopy to find that I had no bacteria, no yeast, no anything... except gastritis. I’m on medication now because I had to do something to stop suffering. Once my treatment is up, I will try a modified version of keto without my trigger foods. But for now, I just try to eat low carb with real food. Weight loss is slower and more difficult but I cannot go back to that amount of pain again. My body needs to heal.
  23. Robyn

    I have 2 ulcers, Barrett's Esophagus, a sliding hernia and reflux. While eating LCHF I need NO medication. When I backslide, like eating too much or eating a big carb meal, I can feel it even though it is still less than before. I'm convinced eating SAD has caused low acid production and that LCHF has helped to normalize my digestion. This year I will have another upper GI performed to see if progress other than just the reflux is actually occurring. A big thanks to this site and others for helping to educate me to make better decisions about my diet. I have a ways to go, but at least I'm heading in the right direction!!!

    Keith, if you are still on this site, how is your Barrett’s? I am in the same boat...

  24. Brenda
    This sounds like me. Can you tell me more about what you did? I went on KETO and list 15 pounds. Reflux totally went away. I started to get discouraged because my weight loss stopped and gained it back, plus reflux is back worse than before.
  25. Debbie
    I have been intermittent fasting for over a year eating 11 am-7pm with a significant reduction in heartburn but continued need for Tagamet a couple times a month and a tums 4-5x a week, at night. I tried a month long keto diet and BAM heartburn was gone completely. I then took a 2 week break to maintain and break a plateau only to get HORRIBLE heartburn nearly the entire 2 weeks. To be honest I was on vacation and my eating habits were not healthy. When I came back I went back on keto and heartburn left as before. Low carb definitely affects my heartburn issues.
  26. Bob
    I have found cutting out sugars, bread, and processed foods (especially fast food) has eliminated my heartburn completely. I love to have a Crown Royal once and a while and have found I get heartburn the next day if I have eaten sugars, bread, or processed foods the day before. Since cutting this out of my diet, going low carb, my heartburn has been non-existant. When eating out and having sugars, bread, or processed foods it immediately returns the next day or during the night when I sleep. A light bulb has turned on for me and I can now control my heartburn with diet instead of pills. The control is mine now.
  27. Peter
    Started LCHF April 2017 and was able to reduce my GURD medication within a few months. Symptom free for 30 months but have been adding back some carbs (>50g) recently and some symptoms have been returning. Just wondering if I should try different types of carbs to see if they have an affect on the reflux.
  28. Carey
    Stops my reflux immediately. It is remarkable.
  29. Rochelle
    Only when I go on low carb or keto does my acidic stomach and reflux disappear. Almost overnight. Otherwise I am suffering daily with acid condition. That is the very first effect of the low carb diet for me. It's why I have started it again, and after 24 hours the acidic condition is almost gone.
  30. fiona.hurst
    I'm in Week 6 of the meal plans and my acid reflux has intensified, i'm in so much pain. I've never had it this bad before, I've got medicines now but my mouth and throat feel like a acid bath! Help
    Reply: #181
  31. Kristin Parker Team Diet Doctor

    I'm in Week 6 of the meal plans and my acid reflux has intensified, i'm in so much pain. I've never had it this bad before, I've got medicines now but my mouth and throat feel like a acid bath! Help

    Common triggers of acid reflux may be tomato, coffee, alcohol or alcohol. You may want to keep a food/symptoms log to identify the culprit. If the reflux doesn't abate soon, please check in with your doctor.

  32. Jos
    8 weeks keto. Was working, no heartvurn, AR, indigestion, no aches n pains. Then i cheated because was having 2nd plateau of severe cravings this time coulnt curb it. Now aches n pains back as well as HB,AR,Indi in 10 days...not going strictly keto anymore because bored, but def. Watch carb consumption!
  33. Louise Martin
    Yes, I can confirm on High Fat/Low Carb diet my acid reflux disappeared completely, almost immediately, after suffering for approximately 8 years (now aged 52 female). I have recently lapsed from my High Fat/Low Carb diet and the acid reflux has returned. It is horrible, Other unpleasant symptoms of IBS have returned too. I'm working on returning to HF/LC diet again now. The reason I lapsed was because I didn't lose any weight over the 5 weeks I was practicing HF/LC. Regardless of no weight loss I will resume HF/LC diet simply to stop the acid reflux & IBS symptoms.
    Reply: #184
  34. Kristin Parker Team Diet Doctor

    Yes, I can confirm on High Fat/Low Carb diet my acid reflux disappeared completely, almost immediately, after suffering for approximately 8 years (now aged 52 female). I have recently lapsed from my High Fat/Low Carb diet and the acid reflux has returned. It is horrible, Other unpleasant symptoms of IBS have returned too. I'm working on returning to HF/LC diet again now. The reason I lapsed was because I didn't lose any weight over the 5 weeks I was practicing HF/LC. Regardless of no weight loss I will resume HF/LC diet simply to stop the acid reflux & IBS symptoms.

    I am sorry that you did not lose weight previously. You may find this article helpful.
    https://www.dietdoctor.com/how-to-lose-weight

  35. Pauline Manix
    I've suffered from severe heartburn symptoms for over 7 years in my late 40's...chest pain, stomach pain, inability to swallow. I had been on aciphex for 7 years. It did help to heal my esophagas, but my heartburn came back with a vengeance once I reached my 50's. I used to go through a container of tums every two weeks. Then I went on a low-carb diet at age 62. ALL the symptoms I mentioned above are 100% gone!!! In addition to that, I am taking 0 medicine and no tums. It's not the easiest diet, you will need to stop eating all pasta, rice, bread, fried food, pizza (all of my favorites) . But it is so worth it no to suffer anymore. I wish one of my Dr's would have suggested this to me sooner, would have saved me from years of suffering. (I also lost 14 lbs).
  36. Clynn
    I’ve been eating LCHF/keto for a couple years and was just diagnosed with LPR after struggling with laryngitis for 6 months. I know I keep my carbs low, but I struggle to have my fats high enough to get me into keto sis. I’m just bewildered by this ailment and the remedies the dr says I need to make to my diet. Help
    Reply: #187
  37. Crystal Pullen Team Diet Doctor

    I’ve been eating LCHF/keto for a couple years and was just diagnosed with LPR after struggling with laryngitis for 6 months. I know I keep my carbs low, but I struggle to have my fats high enough to get me into keto sis. I’m just bewildered by this ailment and the remedies the dr says I need to make to my diet. Help

    Check out our guide to ketosis, especially #4. https://www.dietdoctor.com/low-carb/ketosis

  38. Filipe Jorge
    I’m not going to argue because I’m not an expert, the only thing that I can tell is that since I start Keto I start to have Acid Reflux because of fat. In fact Keto it was and it is great for me, I’m in a better shape, lost some pounds but Acid Reflux I never had before. Now planning to move to a Low Carb medium to low Fat but increase protein. Does anybody have any comments about this symptoms?
    Reply: #189
  39. Kristin Parker Team Diet Doctor

    I’m not going to argue because I’m not an expert, the only thing that I can tell is that since I start Keto I start to have Acid Reflux because of fat. In fact Keto it was and it is great for me, I’m in a better shape, lost some pounds but Acid Reflux I never had before. Now planning to move to a Low Carb medium to low Fat but increase protein. Does anybody have any comments about this symptoms?

    I am sorry that you are experiencing an increase in reflux. You may wish to keep a food/symptoms log to identify any potential triggers. Common foods that can be a problem are tomatoes, chocolate, coffee or alcohol.

  40. Nicola
    I took daily medication for GERD for years, with only limited relief of symptoms. Within a week of starting a keto diet I stopped taking medication. My partner also has severe reflux and has argued with me about carbs being a trigger. He is a week into a low carb diet and grudgingly admits that his reflux is already almost non existent. I began keto for weight loss and was unaware that it would also give relief from chronic heartburn and reflux. I was always under the impression that fat was the problem and worried that keto would increase the symptoms. It doesn't seem to be highly publicised.
    Reply: #191
  41. Kerry Merritt Team Diet Doctor

    I took daily medication for GERD for years, with only limited relief of symptoms. Within a week of starting a keto diet I stopped taking medication. My partner also has severe reflux and has argued with me about carbs being a trigger. He is a week into a low carb diet and grudgingly admits that his reflux is already almost non existent. I began keto for weight loss and was unaware that it would also give relief from chronic heartburn and reflux. I was always under the impression that fat was the problem and worried that keto would increase the symptoms. It doesn't seem to be highly publicised.

    Awesome! So glad to hear of your positive results!

  42. Judith
    I have been eating low carb/keto for 2 years (June 1, 2020 was my 2 year" ketoversary"). For some reason twice in the past week I have had severe acid reflux. I keep a journal, on both days I had desserts made with quite a bit of heavy whipping cream and sweeteners. The first time it was a cream cheese, whipping cream with organic vanilla "pudding" and Truvia. The second time it was DD's Ice cream in a mason jar whipping cream, egg yolk with organic vanilla, stevia drops and Erythritol . Has anyone else experienced this?
    Reply: #194
  43. Connie Steele
    Just two days of eating LCHF and heartburn is gone. Went back to eating carbs and heartburn returns. Staying keto for the next three months. I wonder if losing the weight will have an impact on the heartburn as well? For now, it seems a lot worse when I eat sugary / carb foods.
    Reply: #195
  44. Crystal Pullen Team Diet Doctor

    I have been eating low carb/keto for 2 years (June 1, 2020 was my 2 year" ketoversary"). For some reason twice in the past week I have had severe acid reflux. I keep a journal, on both days I had desserts made with quite a bit of heavy whipping cream and sweeteners. The first time it was a cream cheese, whipping cream with organic vanilla "pudding" and Truvia. The second time it was DD's Ice cream in a mason jar whipping cream, egg yolk with organic vanilla, stevia drops and Erythritol . Has anyone else experienced this?

    It is not uncommon for some to respond in the way you've indicated to dairy or sweeteners. For some people, dairy can be inflammatory. Check out our sweetener guide for more information on sweeteners and their effects. https://www.dietdoctor.com/low-carb/keto/sweeteners

  45. Crystal Pullen Team Diet Doctor

    Just two days of eating LCHF and heartburn is gone. Went back to eating carbs and heartburn returns. Staying keto for the next three months. I wonder if losing the weight will have an impact on the heartburn as well? For now, it seems a lot worse when I eat sugary / carb foods.

    Losing weight may have some impact on heartburn, but it seems as if you've already found the culprit in your case.

  46. Cherith
    Dear Keto people..I have been gastric banded (10 years ago and when too tight severe reflux, but a tiny bit looser can get anything down!)and wondering whether the diet is compatible..anybody out there with experience? Have had numerous try’s at LCHF but since banding have struggled with heartburn etc.
    Reply: #197
  47. Crystal Pullen Team Diet Doctor

    Dear Keto people..I have been gastric banded (10 years ago and when too tight severe reflux, but a tiny bit looser can get anything down!)and wondering whether the diet is compatible..anybody out there with experience? Have had numerous try’s at LCHF but since banding have struggled with heartburn etc.

    Check out this interview with Dr. Eric Westman on GERD and a low carb diet. https://www.dietdoctor.com/member/presentations/qa-westman

  48. Ling
    Hi everyone! Does it have to be keto to be helpful to reduce acid reflux? What about low carb only?
    Reply: #199
  49. Crystal Pullen Team Diet Doctor

    Hi everyone! Does it have to be keto to be helpful to reduce acid reflux? What about low carb only?

    Eliminating processed foods and reducing carbohydrates as with a low carb diet would likely result in reduction of acid reflux as well.

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