GERD — 5 Ways to Reduce Symptoms
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a chronic inflammation that occurs in the digestive system. It is one of the most common gastrointestinal disorders, with a prevalence of approximately 20% of the adults in the western culture. People who have GERD generally suffer from constant heartburn or indigestion. These two symptoms are the most common among GERD patients. Other symptoms include — nausea, vomiting, belching, difficulty swallowing, tooth erosion or bad breath, respiratory problems, and abdominal pain. It is a condition where stomach acid flows back into the esophagus. This backward flow of the acid can irritate the lining of the esophagus and cause heartburn.
There is no known cause for the development of GERD, but an improper lifestyle, motor abnormalities like esophageal dysmotility, impairment in the function of the lower esophageal sphincter, delayed gastric emptying and some dietary habits might lead to the cause of GERD. Age is another important risk factor as it is most commonly seen in the elderly than in youngsters.
A few lifestyle changes are worth trying before resorting to medications for managing GERD!
- Eat sparingly and slowly:
Consuming less food more frequently can ultimately reduce the pressure on the stomach. When you take smaller bites, it is less likely to irritate your stomach and trigger the flow of stomach contents into the esophagus. Include foods that require more chewing and take time to indulge and enjoy every bite of the meal.
2. Avoid certain foods:
Foods like mint, tomatoes, fatty and spicy foods, fried foods, fast foods, chips, chocolate, carbonated beverages, alcohol, peppermint, tomato-based sauces, and cheese can trigger the lower esophageal sphincter to relax and can cause acid reflux. Do not try to eliminate these foods completely, but moderation is the key. These foods are to be avoided from the menu in your evenings, as there are chances that they might still sit in your stomach and flow back when you lay down at night.
3. Foods to include:
Foods like chicken breasts are lean and packed with proteins that ensure easy digestion and add good nutrition. Ginger is an ingredient that can calm down an upset stomach. so try to take ginger tea without caffeine and milk. Keep your sugar consumption to the minimum in the tea. Watermelons are low-acid fruits that do not trigger acid reflux, and nothing can beat a watermelon on a hot summer day. Isn’t it? Complex carbohydrates like brown rice, oats, whole grains are also safe to include in the GERD diet. That extra fiber is all that matters in controlling acid reflux.
4. Stay up after eating:
Do not sleep or lay down on the bed as soon as your meal. It is best recommended to finish eating at least 3 hours before bedtime. No naps after lunch and no late-night suppers and mid-night snacking. It helps by complete digestion of foods before your bedtime and thus does not cause any acid reflux.
5. Lifestyle changes:
If you are overweight, It could be one of the reasons for LES relaxation which can cause GERD. A healthy weight loss is required to manage GERD symptoms. Smoking can also relax the lower esophageal sphincter due to nicotine. Being physically fit and smoking cessation are highly recommended to manage GERD symptoms.
Scientific literature says —
- Diets for GERD patients are extensively customized based on the severity of the symptoms.
- Dietary patterns should be an overall anti-reflux diet plan which includes lifestyle modifications such as smoking cessation, weight loss, and head of bed elevation in those with nocturnal symptoms.
- Specific diets like Mediterranean diets which include — vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and unsaturated fats had reported a low incidence of GERD symptoms
- Change in eating patterns by avoiding late-night eating and reduction in overall size and caloric density of the meal helped in better management of GERD.
- Include complex carbohydrates, lean proteins, and unsaturated fats to have a healthy and balanced meal
Just by adhering to the above points, you can manage your symptoms and can reduce the frequency of acid reflux. Diagnostic tests might include an upper endoscopy or esophageal pH test. The medical intervention of GERD include antacids, proton pump inhibitors, H2 blockers along lifestyle modifications.