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.


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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  1. Margee
    Hello, everyone. I have been looking for many answers and a forum like this to talk. My Doctor has been asking me to come to the Diet Doctor page and try this way of eating for two years. In 2010 I spent almost two months in a hospital, had four surgeries, was in and out of ICU, on and off a ventilator, and almost lost my life a couple times. In the end I lost 9 cm of esophagus and have spent my life struggling to eat. I am obese which may sound strange because I had just lost 50 lbs on a medically monitored program. I have other health issues as well, but the esophagus loss has changed my life. It is not easy living with your stomach being just a path to your intestines and nothing to protect you from bile or stomach acid. Each day I am happy to be alive. About two months ago I took my Doctors advice and completed the two week Keto start challenge. It is amazing how I was eating food I was told that I would never eat again. I am sleeping at night and have not had either acid or bile reflux, accept for once. Emotions are still a driver of reflux for me. I am taking omeprazole and wonder if someday that may not be necessary. I have hope now and are not afraid of food.
  2. Dave
    I fixed my acid reflux:
    For over a decade I have had a hiatus hernia, with the associated acid reflux problems, and was taking Lanzoprazole to manage the reflux.
    I switched to a LCHF diet, and experimented with not taking the drugs, but still, after an hour or two the acid would begin to rise.
    Then I tried time restriced feeding (no food after dinner, and no food before lunch), along with the LCHF and bingo! No more reflux!

    I haven't had to take Lanzoprazole for over 2 months now and I am chuffed to bits about it.
    I hope that helps someone else.

  3. Robs
  4. Ian J
    I cut out refined carbso and adied sugars to stave off type 2 diabetes. As a happy byproduct I went from eating 5-10 tums per day to zero. Heartburn is gone!
  5. Lynda Marroletti
    It has only been about 10 days of starting LCHF diet. I am not following any specific plan, so I eat my grandmothers tomato sauce, red meats, spicy foods etc. I googled the acid reflux issue after noticing that I have not been burping or having any of the horrible reflux issues that have been plaguing me for the past 5+ years. I was taking Pepcid on a daily basis and popping antacids between meals. I typically ate a very healthy diet that included whole grains and minimal refined sugars. My mother has BE and takes handfuls of medications. Because of her issues she eats almost no meats or raw vegetables; instead she eats mostly refined carbohydrates. I was wondering if there is any scientific research into this phenomenon? I am a NP and would like to know how to advise patients.
  6. Debbie
    I started this LC program Jan 2nd 2019. My heart burn is worse than ever. Popping tums all the time. Don't know what to stop eating.
    I am sticking to the two week meal plan precisely as directed on this site. Should I add Apple cider vinegar to my fluid intake?
    Reply: #107
  7. Kristin Parker Team Diet Doctor
    Debbie, you may wish to keep a food/symptoms log so you can see if there are any particular foods that cause it to be worse than others.
  8. Ron
    I have had frequent heartburn (GERD) for 3 years or so. My doctor put me on an acid-reducing medication for 10 weeks that helped quite a bit, but afterwards the heartburn returned. I read an article a few weeks ago about low carb and GERD and decided to give it a try. Very quickly, after a little over a week, I was no longer suffering daily symptoms and now have gone a full week without any symptoms. I believe that reducing carbs made a real difference for me.
  9. Denise
    I started eating LCHF about 3 years ago - about 9 months after being diagnosed with BE. Had a second scope to recheck at that time and no longer had BE. Still had a small hiatal hernia (sliding), but my reflux was so much better and my esophagus was looking better. Due for a new scope this spring, 3 years later. Hoping for good results!! So LCHF has been good for me and helped me heal.
    Replies: #112, #133
  10. Sarah Brown
    I started on a Monday to cut out 80% of my carbs and I haven't had even one episode of acid reflux since. I used to take antacids daily.
  11. Pam Goldman
    I have suffered with LPR on and off for years now. At one point, I was taking 9 prescribed pills PER DAY! After a flair up started towards the end of December, I switched to a Paleo Diet - not only have I eradicated ALL of my symptoms but I have lost 11 pounds! I was already small to begin with (115 pounds), but that extra weight was baggage weight that I clearly didn't need. I am more regular, am sleeping better, my skin is the shiniest it has ever been and my mood is light.... and I am never hungry. My only regret is that I dismissed this diet in the past and that I didn't start it earlier - what a game changer!!!
  12. Adam
    Hey Denis, any updates from you latest scope? I just got diagnosed with BE as well, and had known about carbs and the damage they can do. I was off of them for about a year 5 yrs ago, and it worked wonders. But slowly started normal eating again, and back to reflux problems and BE. I’m off them again and just wondering how your new scope turned out as I have one in 6 months. demarti_107@hotmail.com
  13. Valerie Czyzewski
    Have had issues with heartburn 20+ years taking medication as well. Decided to make changes in my diet on my own February 1st this year. No carbs or sugar today is the 18th have not burped or an issues of heartburn never felt better. It was so bad I would wake in the middle of the night throwing up. So pleased with my decision.
  14. May
    I am a carb person. I have stress induced IBS and Reflux. Last week I was on a low carb diet for 3 days; I was trying I ate mostly leafy greens, meats and fish, eggs and cheese, also electrolytes. On the fourth day, I had a bowl of rice. I almost immediately felt tightness in my chest. Today (Day 6) I had two slices of bread for lunch and I felt reflux. So I searched Google and here we are.
  15. Francis
    A search online for an association between low carb diet and reflux disease lead me to your site. I have suffered from reflux disease for many years (I have no other major health issues). As a medical professional myself, I assumed it was because of the fatty foods and the coffee in my diet. I went on carb free diet simply to lose weight recently and to my surprise within a couple of days my reflux symptoms disappeared completely. As a scientist I am intrigued by this and I hypothesize that at least in my case, that this is related to H. pylori colonizaion (I was never tested for it). Perhaps the carb poor environment can act like a bateriostatic agent. I'm curious to hear your thoughts on this, as I have not been able to find any direct studies on Pubmed linking carbs to survival of H. pylori. My other thought was that perhaps the gluten in the carbs was the culptri (no carbs, no gluten), but I'm less inclined to accept this, because I don't think my symptoms would have improved so quickly if it was an immune deriven pathology.
    Reply: #132
  16. Carol
    Look up Dr Norm Robillard. Fast Tract Diet.
  17. Ailz95
    I've been eating low carb for several years now - until recently when life got difficult and I turned to carbs as comfort food. Now whenever I eat sugar and/or flour I get acid reflux, indigestion and severe stomach pains. My body had got used to not having many carbs and now it's rebelling. At least I can now tell people that I eat low carb and fast because carbs make me il
  18. Helen J Rush
    I came to this site because after 5 weeks on Keto diet it suddenly occurred to me I was no longer popping Tums after every meal. I have not had burbing, acid reflux or heartburn since switching to LCHF way of eating. Not losing weight as fast as others on this plan, but am losing each week. No longer suffering from GERD makes this plan worth following Keto.
  19. Karen
    Yes, I started my LCHF Protocol for controlling migains a year ago and it has greatly improved my silent reflux.
  20. Sherry Lynn
    I have taken one drug or another over the past 20 years for acid reflux (ranitidine and nexium) and since I started LCHF, I DO NOT need to take anything for heartburn because I no longer get heartburn. There was a time when I thought everything gave me heartburn. I've come to realize over the past several month eating the keto-way, I never get heartburn. I always believed that "greasy" or high fat foods gave me heatburn. Boy, was I wrong. Good fats don't give me heartburn. I kept getting my prescription refilled for "just in case", but just-in-case never came. I feel like I've been freed. Perhaps, dare I say it....I am cured. Thank you Diet Doctor.
  21. Emily
    I am having my 3rd child and dealing with the regular tums popping for the 1st time ever. I just had a borderline glucose test so I backed off carbs big time. I had a handful of granola and immediately felt it. I don't think the old wives tale about my baby having loads of hair is true, I think this confirms carbs aren't good for this pregnancy.
  22. Patricia
    I have acid reflux and am on pantaprozole. My reflux was controlled and I had very little breakthrough reflux until I began the keto diet. I am losing weight on the diet, but am experiencing pain from the acid reflux. What should I do?
    Reply: #123
  23. Kristin Parker Team Diet Doctor

    I have acid reflux and am on pantaprozole. My reflux was controlled and I had very little breakthrough reflux until I began the keto diet. I am losing weight on the diet, but am experiencing pain from the acid reflux. What should I do?

    You may wish to keep a food/symptoms log so you can identify what foods may be making the symptoms worse than others.

  24. AmyB
    I have had terrible bouts of daily heartburn and acid reflux for the last several years. My reflux was even causing irritation to my esophagus, with frightening episodes of swallowing difficulty. The only thing that staved off the burn was a daily dose of Omeprazole prescribed by my doctor. Because I'm also an overweight woman approaching 50, I started a LCHF diet two weeks ago. After following the diet for only a couple days I noticed that my heartburn symptoms were completely gone. I didn't realize that there was any correlation between a LCHF diet and reduced reflux until I started Googling it and found this site! So happy to have an answer to my tummy issues without medication. I've also noticed that my frequent bouts of nausea and bloating are gone. Listen to your tummies, people.
  25. Lis
    Hello. Was does BE stand for?
    Reply: #126
  26. Kristin Parker Team Diet Doctor

    Hello. Was does BE stand for?

    Barrett's Esophagus

  27. Sayward
    Yes, I was shocked as I had to take a 24 hour tablet and always have antacids with me wherever I went! Now I don't take them, it's only been 10 days in! I feel like a human being again!
  28. Rebekah Krieger
    I am no longer suffering from the coughing, clearing my throat, hard to swallow food fits, burping up foam, and acid reflux daily since I started a low carb diet. I have completely stopped my acid controller medication. I'm on day 14 of this new way of eating and every time I feel like going back to my old ways, I remind myself I don't ever want to feel that awful burn in my throat and all the other issues I had. I've been taking medicine for over 20 years. I'm so happy to feel this way and to have accidently stumbled upon a way to resolve my issue.
  29. SandraG
    I started Keto a little over a month ago. I had no clue it would influence my acid reflux but I haven’t had medication since I started and not one bout of reflux. It was so bad I couldn’t drink water in the middle of the night as it would come right back up. Now...wow! After being on meds for years I’m DONE!! This is the best part of the diet for me.
  30. D
    Hi, I have been diagnosed with Helicobacter pylori and have had a hard time with a lot of food. A lot of foods give me horrible reflux and I am just so fed up with it. I am also overweight which is probably not helping. Will the low card diet make me more sick?
    Reply: #131
  31. Kristin Parker Team Diet Doctor

    Hi, I have been diagnosed with Helicobacter pylori and have had a hard time with a lot of food. A lot of foods give me horrible reflux and I am just so fed up with it. I am also overweight which is probably not helping. Will the low card diet make me more sick?

    I am not aware of any research showing keto would make this worse. You may wish to keep a food/symptoms log to identify which foods may be more problematic for you.

  32. Flavia
    Another aspect of this is that the fiber in cereals, beans and grains neutralize the stomach acid, which slows food breakdown. The longer the food is in the stomach the more fermentation occurs, the gas produced pressures the esophageal sphincter and it opens, letting stomach acid into the esophagus. So the better your stomach acid the faster the stomach empties, which prevents GERD from happening.
  33. Brandi
    Did you get your new scope yet?
  34. Shellie
    Yes, keto has eliminated my heartburn and LPR. It returns quickly though if I go off. Breads/pastas are the culprit. It would seem like the experts are wrong about tomatoes and fatty foods. Carbs are killing us!
  35. Jean
    At age 75, and having serious reflux issues for more years than I can remember, the LCHF diet totally 'cured' my acid reflux. I had spent years sitting up (all night) in a folding bed, in the hope that this would prevent the acid reaching my mouth, with the vile taste. I had damage to the oesophagus, clearly visible in a scan. After only four months on LCHF, all symptoms were completely GONE. BUT, it takes only one meal containing any product made with wheat to give me reflux issues immediately, and several days for the problem to settle down again. My motto: "Avoid wheat like the plague". No wheat = no reflux. Thank you, Diet Doctor. Jean.
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