How to Keep a Food Diary and Why

Tracy Davenport, Ph.D. Health Guide
  • How to Keep a Food Diary and Why


    “You’ll be the first to know.” This is what a very capable physical therapist once told me about what might be causing my back pain. This idea that we may be the first to know what might be responsible for our pain can be confusing to some, especially when many of us have grown up believing the medical “experts” are always the ones wearing the white coats.


    However, it is often true that we really do have the best seats in the house when it comes to uncovering the patterns and knowing exactly what we ate and how we felt afterward. The reason we are often our own experts especially when it comes to reflux is that everyone is different. Using a food diary can be a great tool for those living with acid reflux to help identify food triggers and determine the effectiveness of the reflux treatment. If you have reflux (or suspect you might), the records you keep do not have to be complicated.

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    Here is what you should record if you are trying to get a better idea of your reflux “triggers.”


    What You are Consuming (and How Much)

    One of the tricky parts about reflux is that some can tolerate a little bit of typical trigger foods such as tomato sauce, cinnamon, or chocolate, but if he or she consumes too much, that is when the problems begin. It can also be tricky that our digestive systems change over time. So it may be that only a few years ago you were able to eat an entire plate of spicy nachos, but now those same nachos seem to bother you. Only through a detailed record of what you are consuming can you figure out what your particular digestive system can tolerate.


    What Time You Ate (including the Season)

    Another individual trait of acid reflux disease is that some have “eating windows” – meaning that some individuals with reflux can not eat as soon as they wake up without discomfort but are able to tolerate more food after a few hours of being awake. Others are more sensitive to certain foods right before they go to bed. And, believe it or not, the season can also matter. Some with reflux also suffer from environmental allergies, so if an individual is suffering with an allergic “nasal drip” during the spring or fall, his or her stomach may also feel worse in those seasons than it does during the winter or summer.


    How You Feel

    This can be as simple as putting down a smiling or frowning face throughout the day (maybe document how you feel first thing in the morning, the evening, and during the night). Then, if time allows, put a few details next to the symbols that describes if you had heartburn, your stomach hurt, or you felt tired from not sleeping well.


    What Medications You Took (and When)

    Reflux medications can take weeks to start working and individuals can also build up tolerances to them. This can make it very difficult for someone to easily know if a medication is working or not (and for how long). Sometimes it takes a lot of patience. By recording exactly which medication you took when, you can compare this information with your food diary and maybe get to the bottom of it all before any one else. 

Published On: March 06, 2014