Intuitive Eating: A Holistic Approach for Acid Reflux Management- Part 1

Intuitive Eating: A Holistic Approach for Acid Reflux Management- Part 1

Published on Thursday, March 24, 2022 by Brooke Orr

Mastering the Art of Intuitive Eating: Principles 1-5 for Acid Reflux Relief

Intuitive Eating was introduced to the public in 1995 and has become increasingly popular over the years, appealing to many, including members of the anti-diet movement as well as those recovering from eating disorders. It is a way of approaching food and eating that’s all about listening to your body and its natural cues while finding a healthy and balanced relationship with food based on your unique needs and preferences. Many people have found success with Intuitive Eating, and many more can, including those with GI disorders such as acid reflux and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). 

This method of nourishing oneself is rooted in a mind-body connection, which requires an “interoceptive awareness.”  Interoceptive awareness is described as the capacity to recognize, access, interpret, and react suitably to the internal signal pattern. For example, infants are typically in tune with their hunger and fullness cues (think 2 AM feedings or refusing a new formula). However, thanks to diet culture, many of us older individuals have forgotten how to listen to these internal signals. Hunger and fullness, as well as pain, discomfort, bloating, gas, reflux, etc., can help individuals develop an eating style that works best for their body by thoroughly listening to these internal signals.

Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Reisch developed the 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating to help people on that journey. Below are the first five principles of Intuitive Eating, with examples of how each may help manage acid reflux.  

1. Reject the Diet Mentality- Many of you will remember the ads and messages as part of the public health campaign “War on Childhood Obesity” and the plethora of diets that followed.  The onset of restriction was an interesting contrast to the “clean plate club” from generations before, but both interrupted intuitive eating. Rejecting the diet mentality rejects the belief that there is one diet that, if followed perfectly 100% of the time, will fulfill our health and wellness dreams. 

This principle is useful if you have acid reflux because it encourages flexibility within recommendations. For example, “fats as a trigger food” may be situational. Certain types of fats, or when eaten with alcohol, or at a certain time of day, etc., may trigger one individual and look different to another. Taking general recommendations like “follow a low-fat diet” and applying intuitive eating means rejecting it as 100% truth and listening to inner cues to decide when and where it applies to your unique makeup.  

2. Honor Your Hunger- One of the first food rules for those with acid reflux is not eating big meals. This can be confusing if you are not used to listening to your hunger cues and can be taken to mean eat less, period. The honor your hunger principle can be helpful in this situation because it encourages you to stay well fed- with all food groups, not ignore hunger cues in an attempt to eat less. Hunger can also trigger acid reflux- so stay attuned to what your body tells you throughout the day.  

3. Make Peace with Food- Restricting foods or food groups often leads to cravings and food preoccupation. Even with acid reflux, you may be able to keep your symptoms in check and your “no foods” list to a minimum. For example, If spaghetti and meatballs are your favorite food, but you are trying to avoid them due to them triggering reflux symptoms- instead of avoidance, experiment with lower-acid recipes, amount eaten, what is consumed with the meal, or timing of the meal so that you can still enjoy this food.  

4. Challenge the Food Police- We all have food rules that sometimes sound off in our heads. Whether it is “cleaning your plate,” “not eating after 8,” or “a moment on the lips is forever on the hips”–you get the point– the list can go on forever. Based on our life experiences, we all have misconceptions and rules about food. Principle 4 encourages people to challenge those rules that no longer serve them on the Intuitive Eating Journey. Instead of being rigid and following rules, let your body and symptoms guide you. Remember that the way we feel varies from day to day, so stay in the present moment when deciding your needs.  

5. Discover the Satisfaction Factor- This principle is fairly self-explanatory but counter-cultural.  We are often taught to choke down something we don’t like in the name of health or are too distracted to actually enjoy our food. This principle incorporates pleasure into the journey.  

Stay tuned for part 2, which will cover principles 6-10. As always, if you are struggling with your eating journey, seek out a health professional to help you on your way. The Intuitive Eating website offers a directory of counselors and dietitians who have been trained in the principles and can help you apply them to your unique situation.  

  1. Tribole, E., & Resch, E. (2019, December 19). 10 principles of intuitive eating. Intuitive Eating.  
  2. Craig A. D. (2015). How Do You Feel? An Interoceptive Moment with Your Neurobiological Self. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. 

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