Remember not too long ago, when the Atkins and South Beach Diet were supposed to revolutionize weight-loss? The diets were not shams, but the way they were thought of sometimes made it seem so. People assumed that the new best way to lose weight was to simply eliminate carbohydrates from their diet, when the truth was that both of those diets helped restructure how we ate carbs. Carbohydrates are what give us energy; how could we make it through a day by eliminating them?

Now people are wondering whether low carb diets can help with something other than weight loss: GERD. GERD is short for gastroesophageal reflux disease, and its most prevalent symptom is heartburn. Nearly everyone experiences some sort of heartburn every so often,[1] but when you get it a few times per week consistently for 3 months, you need to visit your doctor because you probably have GERD.[2]

Serious GERD is treated in a number of ways, some of which include surgery. But because GERD is painful (think: a burning sensation behind the breastbone), people use various tactics to manage the symptoms. They include over-the-counter medications of varying strengths and lifestyle change, like dieting, weight loss, stress reduction, and sleeping habits.

Experts agree that diets to relieve GERD should focus on cutting back on these foods and drinks:

  • Chocolates
  • Peppermints
  • Alcohols
  • Caffeine
  • Citruses
  • Tomato-based
  • High fat and/or fried

The idea of limiting carbs  has gained backing and inspired somewhat of a cult following among GERD sufferers. In Dr. Norm Robillard, a microbiologist and GERD sufferer, wrote the book Heartburn Cured, in which he explains how a low carb diet helps fix GERD.[3] It caught the attention of Dr. Michael R. Eades, the best-selling author of Protein Power, who in a 2005 blog post wrote that he "100% buys into" Dr. Robillard's theory.

Elsewhere others have posted that cutting carbs helped them lower their waistline, which in turn helped them fit into smaller jeans and reduce acid reflux. Tongue-in-cheek as this may sound, it gets at an interesting idea regarding GERD and low carb diets-that many of the traditional ways of alleviating GERD involve scaling back (or switching to healthier) carbohydrates: eating more whole grains, taking in less acidic juices, cutting back on alcohol and caffeine, and cutting out fatty foods.

Still, though, there has been no definitive scientific conclusion on the topic. So if you're thinking that a low carb diet will result in lessened GERD symptoms, it's best to visit your doctor for a professional opinion. He or she will help determine what is the best course of action for you.