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GERD Diet - Foods to Help with Acid Reflux

Gastroesophageal reflux disease, commonly known as GERD, is a digestive disorder that affects millions of people worldwide. If you’ve experienced the burning sensation of heartburn or the regurgitation of stomach acid into your oesophagus, you’re likely familiar with its symptoms. However, by making strategic choices in your diet, you can manage GERD effectively. In this article, we’ll explore what GERD is, its causes and symptoms, and most importantly, the foods that can help alleviate its discomfort, as well as those to avoid.

What is GERD?

GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease), commonly known as acid reflux, is a chronic digestive disorder that occurs when stomach acid or, occasionally, stomach content, flows back into the esophagus. The oesophagus is the tube that carries food from your mouth to your stomach. When the lower oesophageal sphincter (LES), a muscular ring located at the junction of the oesophagus and the stomach, doesn’t close properly or relaxes too frequently, it allows stomach acid to reflux into the oesophagus. This chronic condition can lead to uncomfortable symptoms such as heartburn, regurgitation, and chest pain. If left untreated, it can even damage the oesophagus lining.

Causes of GERD

Several factors can cause or exacerbate GERD:

  1. High-Fat Diet: Foods high in fat can relax the lower oesophagal sphincter (LES), allowing stomach acid to flow back into the oesophagus.
  2. Overeating: Consuming large meals or lying down right after eating can increase the risk of reflux.
  3. Obesity: Extra weight, especially around the abdomen, can put pressure on the stomach, pushing acid into the oesophagus.
  4. Certain Foods and Drinks: Spicy foods, citrus fruits, tomatoes, caffeine, alcohol, and carbonated beverages can trigger or worsen symptoms.


Common GERD Symptoms

Heartburn: This is a burning sensation or discomfort in the chest, often behind the breastbone. It’s the most common symptom of GERD.

Regurgitation: This is when stomach acid or food comes back up into the throat or mouth, causing a sour or bitter taste.

Chest Pain: Some individuals with GERD experience chest pain that can mimic the symptoms of a heart attack. It’s essential to seek medical attention if you’re uncertain about the cause of chest pain.

Difficulty Swallowing: Known as dysphagia, this symptom can occur when the oesophagus becomes narrowed due to inflammation or scarring.

Chronic Cough: GERD can trigger a persistent cough, particularly when lying down or at night.

Sore Throat or Hoarseness: The refluxed acid can irritate the throat, leading to these symptoms.

Laryngitis: Inflammation of the voice box (larynx) can result from acid irritation.

Foods to Help with GERD

While managing GERD, it’s essential to incorporate foods that soothe the digestive tract. Here are some dietary choices that can help:

  1. Vegetables: Incorporate non-acidic vegetables like leafy greens, lettuce, celery, broccoli, cauliflower, sweet peppers and carrots into your diet. These are gentle on the stomach. Fennels are a good choice as well as they are low in acidity and have a natural soothing effect.
  2. Fruits: Opt for non-citrus fruits like bananas, apples, and melons. They are less likely to trigger reflux.
  3. Lean Protein: Choose lean sources of protein such as chicken breast, turkey, fish, and tofu. Avoid fatty cuts of meat. Choose to boil, bake or grill them instead of frying. 
  4. Whole Grains: Oatmeal, brown rice, and whole-grain bread are excellent choices. They are filling and lower in fat.
  5. Ginger: Ginger has anti-inflammatory properties that can help alleviate symptoms. Consider ginger tea or adding fresh ginger to your meals.


Foods to Avoid

To manage GERD effectively, it’s crucial to steer clear of trigger foods:

  1. High-Fat Foods: Avoid fried and fatty foods, as they relax the LES, making reflux more likely.
  2. Citrus Fruits: Oranges, lemons, and grapefruits are acidic and can irritate the oesophagus.
  3. Tomatoes and Tomato-Based Products: Tomato sauces, ketchup, and salsa are acidic and can trigger reflux.
  4. Spicy Foods: Hot peppers and spicy dishes can worsen symptoms for many people.
  5. Caffeine and Alcohol: Both can relax the LES and increase acid production.
  6. Carbonated Beverages: The bubbles in soda can expand in the stomach, leading to increased pressure and reflux.
  7. Peppermint: Although peppermint has earned its reputation for soothing a sore tummy, it is actually an acid reflux trigger. 
  8. Eating Before Bed: Avoid eating at least 2 hours before bed and try eating multiple smaller portions throughout the day instead of 2 or 3 big meals.

It’s important to note that individual responses to foods can vary. What triggers symptoms in one person may not affect another. Keeping a food diary can help you identify specific triggers. Additionally, it’s advisable to consult with a healthcare professional or a gastroenterologist to find the most suitable treatment plan for your unique needs.

Alternative Methods to Relieve GERD

If you have tried changing your diet and it has not helped, it may be time to seek professional treatment. Your doctor or gastroenterologist may recommend:

Medications like antacids, over-the-counter medications that provide temporary relief from heartburn, H2 Blockers that reduce the production of stomach acid or Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs) – potent acid suppressors and are often used for more severe cases of GERD.

If lifestyle changes and medications do not provide sufficient relief, surgical options like fundoplication or LINX device implantation may be considered to strengthen the LES and prevent reflux.

In conclusion, managing GERD through diet is possible. By making informed choices about the foods you eat, you can alleviate symptoms and improve your digestive health. Remember that a healthy GERD diet is not only about what to avoid but also about incorporating foods that promote digestive comfort and overall well-being.

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Here at KYM Surgery, we believe in providing holistic & comprehensive medical care for all patients.