Reflux Reduction: 5 Nutritional Strategies for Managing Acid Reflux

Reflux Reduction: 5 Nutritional Strategies for Managing Acid Reflux

If you’ve experienced acid reflux, that uncomfortable burning sensation in your chest or throat, you are not alone.  Acid reflux is extremely common during cancer treatment and affects people with cancer even more than those without cancer.  In breast cancer treatment, certain chemotherapies, hormonal and targeted therapies, bisphosphonates (drugs that prevent bone loss), and pain medications, can all contribute to heartburn. No matter the cause, reflux can wreak havoc by making it more difficult to swallow, leaving a bitter taste in your mouth, reducing your desire to eat, and interfering with much-needed sleep. The good news is, there are many strategies to fight reflux by making some simple changes to your diet and lifestyle:

  • Identify your triggers: “Triggers”, or foods that make reflux worse, are not one size fits all.  What causes reflux in one person may be no problem for the next. The best way to identify your personal triggers is to start a food symptom journal. Simply keep track of the foods you eat along with the time, and observe and write down your symptoms for a week.
  • Watch out for common culprits: While “trigger” foods are individualized, there are several foods that are often the culprits.  The most common include highly acidic foods (like citrus fruit, juices, and tomatoes), caffeinated and carbonated beverages, coffee (including decaffeinated), and alcohol.  Fatty and fried foods, onions, garlic, peppermint, spicy foods, and chocolate (I’m sorry!) are also ones to look out for.
  • Eat small and eat slow: Eating small, frequent meals and snacks, rather than large portions are easier for the body to digest because they don’t force the stomach to produce as much acid.  Eating slowly and chewing very well can also help give the body time to process a meal and produce acid gradually.
  • Positioning matters: Be sure to stay upright for at least 30 minutes after meals and finish your last meal at least 1 hour before bed time.  For a better night’s sleep, try propping your head up with a few pillows to keep unwanted acid from traveling up the esophagus.  You should also avoid tight clothing around the midsection which can worsen symptoms as well.
  • Make smart choices: Instead of focusing only on the restrictions, learn about foods that can alleviate your symptoms.  Focus on less-acidic fruits and vegetables (like bananas, melon, pears, potatoes, spinach, and green beans), lean protein (like skinless poultry, fish, egg whites, and low fat dairy), and whole grains (like oatmeal, brown rice, and whole wheat bread and pasta).  Here is a delicious, healthy recipe to help combat reflux and start your day off right:


Tropical Protein Oatmeal

Serving size: 1 cup
Serves: 2


  • 1 cup old fashioned rolled oats
  • 2 cups unsweetened non-dairy milk (like almond or soy), or low-fat milk
  • 1 banana sliced
  • 1 cup cantaloupe or honeydew melon diced
  • 2 egg whites
  • Optional toppings: cinnamon, ground flaxseed, drizzle of honey, or small portion (1-2 teaspoons) creamy nut butter or coconut flakes


  1. Add the oats, banana slices and the liquid of choice to a small pot. Stir to combine. Heat over medium heat, stirring frequently, for 5 to 6 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed.
  2. Meanwhile, whip the egg whites until they reach a light foam consistency. Slowly pour the egg whites into the oatmeal, while stirring constantly to prevent the egg whites from scrambling.
  3. Cook for another 2-3 minutes to ensure the egg whites are cooked. When ready, place in a bowl.  Top with the diced melon and optional toppings of your choice and enjoy!

While acid reflux can be overwhelming, always remember to take it one day at a time. Tell your doctor about your symptoms and empower yourself with strategies like these to help manage your symptoms as much as you can.

In cancer treatment there is so much that we can’t control, but nutrition is one thing we can!  Practicing good nutrition throughout the cancer journey can be overwhelming, and for that reason, Savor Health offers Ina, the Intelligent Nutrition Assistant – for free!  Ina is available to provide 24/7, expert and personalized nutritional strategies that address and prevent symptoms from treatment and the disease. Click on the following link to sign up and have Inaat your fingertips:


Marissa Buchan is a registered dietitian with certifications in Oncology Nutrition (CSO) and Clinical Research (CCRP) and is Chief Operating Officer of Savor Health. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Duke University, and Master’s of Science degree in Clinical Nutrition from New York University. Marissa worked for 10 years at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center doing both clinical research and nutrition counseling.  She lives in Chicago with her husband and toddler and loves to cook (mostly) healthy meals in her free time.