Taking the Nine-Day Challenge: Finding Your Acid Reflux Triggers - dummies

Taking the Nine-Day Challenge: Finding Your Acid Reflux Triggers

By Patricia Raymond, Michelle Beaver

You don’t want you to have to give up foods that you like if they don’t cause problems for you. And likewise, you want to know what foods do cause you problems so you can stay away them. Take this nine-day challenge to find out which foods bother you and which foods don’t.

Cutting down or cutting out favorite foods can be tough. Some foods feel addictive, and if one of these addictive foods strikes your fancy, you may feel anxiety about waving goodbye to it. Or maybe you won’t even know you’re addicted to that food until you try to get rid of it.

Before you start the challenge, journal how you feel for six whole days. Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • How many times have you had acid reflux these six days?

  • How bad has your acid reflux been each time you had it? For each episode in the last six days, rate the reflux as one of the following:

    • 5: The worst you’ve ever had

    • 4: Pretty bad

    • 3: Average for me

    • 2: Not as bad as usual

    • 1: Not a big deal at all — barely noticeable

  • Overall, how have you felt each of these six days? Come up with a number for each day:

    • 1: Great

    • 2: Good

    • 3: Fair

    • 4: Bad

Add up your numbers for the whole six days. That’s the number you’ll compare to what you rack up in the upcoming nine-day challenge. The higher the number, the worse your reflux is.

Days 1–3: Cutting out possible culprits

The first three days require you to get rid of some things you may really like. Remember: If you find that those foods or beverages don’t bother you when you reintroduce them (later in the trial), you can still have them!

Here are the foods to cut out the first three days:

  • Alcohol

  • Caffeine

  • Canned foods

  • Chocolate

  • Citrus

  • Cranberries

  • Mint

  • Raw garlic

  • Raw onion

  • Red meat

  • Tomatoes

Also cut out these spices:

  • Black pepper

  • Cayenne

  • Chili

  • Curry

  • Mustard

  • Nutmeg

And, sorry, but the list doesn’t end there. You’ll also need to cut out:

  • Carbonated beverages

  • Complicated meals with lots of acidic ingredients (according to some nutritionists)

  • Fried foods

  • Spicy foods

  • Excess fat (like butter, excess oils, and chicken skins)

  • Large meals

This entire challenge, don’t eat to the point of being very full. Eat just until you’re satisfied, and then stop. Eating too much food at once is a big trigger of acid reflux.

And you’ll also need to cut out water and air. Just kidding! Really, these lists are all you need to cut out. And it’s only for a little while, so don’t worry!

The food you may be most worried about cutting out is red meat, unless you’re a vegetarian. If you’re worried about cutting out red meat, just cut out fatty portions of red meat, such as burgers sizzling in grease, and have very lean versions instead. Lean protein, such as chicken and seafood, empties the stomach much quicker so it doesn’t trigger acid reflux like a hamburger or a big portion of bacon might.

Days 4–6: Monitoring how you feel

All right, you cut out a lot of foods. It was only for three days, but it may have been challenging anyway. Now it’s time to keep those foods away a little longer (just three more days).

Record how you feel each day. Ask yourself the same questions you asked in the six-day pre-challenge period:

  • How many times have you had acid reflux these six days?

  • How bad has your acid reflux been each time you had it? For each episode in the last six days, rate the reflux as one of the following:

    • 5: The worst you’ve ever had

    • 4: Pretty bad

    • 3: Average for me

    • 2: Not as bad as usual

    • 1: Not a big deal at all — barely noticeable

  • Overall, how have you felt each of these six days? Come up with a number for each day:

    • 1: Great

    • 2: Good

    • 3: Fair

    • 4: Bad

Add up your numbers for the whole six days, for each category. Compare it to your number from the six-day pre-challenge period. The higher the number, the worse your reflux is, and the worse you’re feeling overall. If your numbers have improved, the diet very well may be working for you.

Days 7–9: Reintroducing foods

Now, this is the fun part! The foods you missed the most can come back into your life at this point. Don’t go hog wild, though. For instance, it might not be a good idea to go to a salsa festival and visit every booth if tomato, garlic, and onion turn out to be three of your triggers.

Make a list of the possible trigger foods you missed the most, and then try each of them during this three-day period. Try to have only one a day, so that it’s more clear which ones, if any, are the culprit if your reflux comes back.

If you have more than three trigger foods that you very much missed, extend this part of the trial as long as needed until you identify which foods bother you and which foods don’t.