Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, also known as GERD, is the chronic form of acid reflux that occurs when stomach acid escapes the stomach and flows back into the esophagus. The burning sensation in the chest and throat caused by acid reflux is commonly called heartburn. If you experience acid reflux symptoms twice a week or more, you may have GERD.
In this post, we’ll take a closer look at what it means to have GERD, explore GERD diet plans, and discuss some other tips to help you manage GERD symptoms. Use the links below to skip ahead to the section that best answers your query, or read through for a comprehensive take on the GERD diet.
According to the National Library of Medicine1, GERD is a more serious manifestation of acid reflux, typically occurring twice per week or more. GERD and GER (acid reflux) happen when the opening of your lower esophageal sphincter (LES) relaxes or weakens when it shouldn’t, allowing acid from your stomach to travel back up through your esophagus. When acid escapes from your stomach, you may feel heartburn or chest pain, and experience a dry cough, regurgitation, shortness of breath, or trouble swallowing. GERD treatment may include lifestyle changes (i.e., dieting), GERD medication, or GERD surgery.
If you’ve ever experienced heartburn symptoms, odds are, you noticed it after eating a large meal or something spicy, greasy, or acidic. This is because GERD symptoms, such as heartburn, are often triggered by the food that we eat. In fact, Johns Hopkins gastroenterologist, Ekta Gupta, M.B.B.S., M.D.2, says, “Diet plays a major role in controlling acid reflux symptoms and is the first line of therapy used for people with GERD.”
Learning what to eat with GERD comes down to knowing which foods can trigger your symptoms and which ones can soothe or prevent GERD symptoms. In these next sections, we’ll take a look at which GERD foods to avoid as well as GERD-friendly foods to incorporate into your diet.
Foods that are known triggers for heartburn cause the esophageal sphincter to relax, and in turn, allow stomach acid to travel up through the esophagus while also delaying the digestive process. Johns Hopkins Medicine2 says individuals suffering from GERD should avoid the following foods:
While there are plenty of foods that contribute to GERD flare-ups, there are even more healthy and satisfying GERD diet options that won’t irritate your symptoms:
Note:Everyone reacts to food differently; pay attention to how your body responds to different foods as you build a GERD diet that works for you.
Like you would for almost any other medical condition, addressing your GERD symptoms should be a holistic health endeavor. In addition to avoiding symptom-triggering foods and following a GERD diet, there are several other habits and home remedies that can work to improve your symptoms in the moment and over time. Let’s take a look at some examples.
The International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders3 says those with GERD and acid reflux symptoms should steer clear of alcohol, which can irritate and weaken the LES. Some individuals experience uncomfortable heartburn symptoms after just one drink, while others only feel the effects after drinking a moderate amount.
Chewing gum boosts saliva production, and in turn, reduces the amount of acid in the esophagus. If you do chew gum to reduce your GERD symptoms, make sure you avoid peppermint and spearmint flavors, as they can cause the lower esophageal sphincter to relax and open up the valve for stomach acid to travel into the esophagus, resulting in heartburn and other symptoms.
When your body is busy digesting food, it’s a good idea to either stand or sit up straight for at least two hours after eating. When you sit up, you’re letting gravity do a lot of the work in the digestive process while also preventing acid from escaping from the stomach.
As we mentioned in the last tip, it’s always a good idea to stay upright for at least two hours after eating a meal. The digestion process ramps up your stomach’s production of acid, on top of the acid contents of your meal, so allowing your body to complete this process before lying down is a great way to prevent symptoms.
If you’re looking for quick GERD relief, try these pantry staples:
When it comes to your health, taking action on your own can be a great first step. However, if your GERD symptoms worsen or do not improve after you’ve implemented a GERD diet or tried other treatments, consult your physician. While many patients can find relief through a combination of diet and lifestyle adjustments, medication for further evaluation may be recommended by your doctor.
Diet plays a big role in physical health in so many ways — subscribing to a GERD diet can help minimize your symptoms and provide relief when your symptoms have been triggered.
In addition to following a GERD diet, GERD patients can also implement certain lifestyle habits to reduce symptoms in both the short and long-term. Maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding tight clothing, and sleeping in the best position for GERD, are all positive examples you can use to mitigate GERD symptoms.
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