Acid reflux

          The symptoms of GERD Shortly after eating or drinking, you may find yourself with a burning sensation in your chest, also known as heartburn. You may feel something rise from your stomach to the back of your throat or even find yourself having to swallow or spit it out.

Any of these symptoms can point to gastroesophageal reflux diseasealso known as GERD, says David Estores, MD, a gastroenterologist at the University of Florida College of Medicine.

What are the symptoms of GERD?

Heartburn and acid regurgitation are the two most common symptoms of GERD, along with chest pain after eating. The disease also affects many people. In the US, researchers estimate approx 20 percent of the adult population suffers from GERD, according to a study published in the journal intestines.

Experts often recommend that patients limit (or completely avoid) consumption of certain foods, such as citrus fruits, tomatoes, coffee, chocolate, alcohol, mint, spicy foods and foods high in fat. And there is no doubt that some people take advantage of these restrictions. But how big a role does your diet play?

Here’s what some of the latest research shows and what else experts recommend when it comes to GERD and eating habits. In fact, some experts suggest it might not be as simple as just cutting out things like citrus fruits or coffee — but changing your ways entirely.

Why do experts recommend dietary changes?

When you swallow something, it travels down a long tube known as the esophagus and arrives at a valve known as the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). This valve is like a guard that allows substances to enter the stomach.

the catch? LES should not allow things to be backed up. However, some substances make it more relaxed, allowing the acidic contents of the stomach to move back up. This stomach acid can be irritating, cause symptoms, and over time can lead to further complications and damage.

Read more: Why stomach acid is super powerful—and super important

What foods to avoid with Gerd?

Alcohol, chocolate, peppermint and high-fat foods have been shown in laboratory studies to cause the LES to relax, according to the authors of American College of Gastroenterology (AGC) 2022 Clinical Guidelines. As such, these elements may contribute to GERD in some patients.

In addition to relaxing the LES, fatty foods tend to stay in your stomach longer than other foods, which can slow down your overall digestion, says Irene Sonu, a gastroenterologist at Stanford University.

“If your food sits in your stomach for a long time, it can cause your stomach to produce more acid and lead to more acid reflux,” says Sonu.

Read more: Stomach pain? Your gut bacteria may be to blame

What other foods to avoid with GERD?

Other foods and beverages such as coffee, caffeine, citrus fruits and spicy food have had “little or no effect on the LES” in laboratory studies, according to the ACG guidelines. However, they can be more acidic and irritating than other foods, which can cause symptoms. others studies and sources report that coffee and caffeine relax the LES.

Moreover, in a A 2020 study involving a large group of female nursesparticipants who consumed six or more servings of coffee, tea, and soda per day had increased symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux compared to those who had none.

The researchers also found that they replaced two servings of these drinks with water, a less acidic and more neutral drink. the pH scale, resulted in fewer symptoms. However, drinking other acidic juices, including orange and tomato, did not cause reflux symptoms, further complicating the narrative.

Should you completely cut out these foods?

As the study above shows, not everyone gets symptoms from acidic foods. Similarly, completely cutting out citrus fruits, tomatoes and other foods means avoiding a host of healthy options, explains Andrea Bailey, nutritionist at Top Nutrition Coaching.

Instead, she recommends keeping a food diary for about two to three weeks to see if there’s a culprit for you. You can then reduce or eliminate these products and see if there is an improvement.

Also, complete removal of elements may not be realistic and may lead to high recidivism rates, Estores says. Estones is an avid coffee drinker. He admits that it would be difficult for him to eliminate coffee completely.

“I’m probably one of those people who would say maybe I’m more open to taking medication and giving up coffee altogether,” Stones says.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t circumstances where certain things shouldn’t be eliminated. For example, if you have severe symptoms after drinking an alcoholic drink and if you have Barrett’s esophagusthen yes, avoiding alcohol can be important, Estores adds.

How to treat GERD

The best case scenario when it comes to GERD and symptom management? Losing weight and changing your lifestyle in general, Estores says. Some studies have found a significant reduction in symptoms after weight loss and intensification of symptoms after gaining weight.

Diet modification

Researchers also found that sticking to a Mediterranean diet, compared to a diet full of red meat, fried foods, sweets and fast food, also helped, according to a study published in Diseases of the esophagus.

“I always tell people to just not eat to relieve or reduce the symptoms of GERD, because the number one killer of patients is not reflux. Actually it is heart disease,Estores explains. “You know, if you’re taking it with your whole body, then changing your diet makes more sense.”

Lifestyle recommendations

Other lifestyle recommendations include making sure you don’t lie down soon after eating or using a wedge pillow and avoiding large meals, Sonu says. Also, don’t eat late at night which can also increase stomach acid production. Even eating more slowly can be helpful, too, Bailey says.

“If you’ve tried lifestyle changes and still aren’t getting any relief, you can either see your primary care doctor or go ahead and start an over-the-counter (OTC) treatment for acid reflux,” says Sonu. “If you need it long-term, then it should usually be taken with the guidance of at least a primary care physician.”

Medical care

Sure, Estores says, if you have risk factors for esophageal cancer or Barrett’s esophaguswhich may be elevated in older men who lead a sedentary lifestyle and are overweight, then you should seek medical attention.

“It’s not just about protecting the esophagus from damage or progression to precancerous conditions or other complications associated with GERD,” Estores adds. “But it really should be, you know, more of a lifestyle change aimed at promoting your health. And if you recognize that, I think you’re in a better place.

Read more: Is the Mediterranean Diet Healthy?

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