Soon after eating or drinking, you might find yourself with a burning sensation in your chest, otherwise known as heartburn. Maybe you feel something rise from your stomach to the back of your throat, or even have to swallow it or spit it out.
Any of these symptoms may indicate gastroesophageal refluxalso known as GERD, says David Estores, a gastroenterologist at the University of Florida School 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 a meal. The disease also affects many people. In the United States, researchers estimate about 20% of the adult population suffers from GERD, according to a study published in the journal Intestine.
Experts often recommend that patients limit (or completely avoid) their intake of certain foods, such as citrus fruits, tomatoes, coffee, chocolate, alcohol, peppermint, spicy foods and foods high in fat. And there is no doubt that some people benefit from these restrictions. But what role does your diet really play?
Here’s what some of the recent 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 completely changing your habits.
Why do experts recommend dietary changes?
When you swallow something, it travels through a long tube, called the esophagus, and arrives at a valve known as the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). This valve is like a safety guard that allows substances to enter the stomach.
The problem? The LES is not supposed to let things back down. However, certain substances make it more relaxed, which allows the acidic contents of the stomach to rise. This stomach acid can be irritating, cause symptoms, and over time lead to other complications and damage.
Learn more: Why Stomach Acid Is Super Strong – And Super Important
What foods to avoid with Gerd?
According to the authors of the American College of Gastroenterology (AGC) 2022 Clinical Guidelines. As such, these items 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 Stanford University gastroenterologist Irene Sonu.
“If your meal sits in your stomach for a long time, it can cause your stomach to produce more acid and lead to more acid reflux,” Sonu says.
Learn more: Stomach ache? Your Gut Bacteria Could Be To Blame
What other foods to avoid with GERD?
Other foods and beverages such as coffee, caffeine, citrus fruits and spicy foods had “little or no effect on LES” in laboratory studies, according to the CAG guidelines. Yet they can still be more acidic and irritating than other foods, which can cause symptoms. Other studies And sources point out that coffee and caffeine relax the LES.
Moreover, in a 2020 study involving a large cohort of nursesparticipants who drank six or more servings of coffee, tea, and soda per day experienced increased symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease compared to those who did not.
The researchers also found that swapping two servings of these drinks with water, a drink that is less acidic and more neutral on the pH scale, leads to fewer symptoms. However, drinking other acidic juices, including orange and tomato, did not cause reflux symptoms, further complicating the story.
Should You Eliminate These Foods Completely?
As the study above shows, not everyone experiences symptoms of acidic products. Likewise, completely eliminating citrus fruits, tomatoes and other foods means avoiding a plethora of healthy options, says Andrea Bailey, registered dietitian 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. Then you can reduce or remove these products and see if there is any improvement.
Additionally, eliminating items completely may not be realistic and may result in a high recidivism rate, Estores says. Estones is a big coffee drinker. He admits that it would be difficult for him to completely eliminate coffee.
“I’m probably one of those people who would say that maybe I’m more open to taking meds and stopping coffee altogether.” Estones said.
That’s not to say there aren’t circumstances where certain things shouldn’t be eliminated. For example, if you have severe symptoms after drinking an alcoholic drink and you have Barrett’s esophagusso yes, avoiding alcohol can be important, Estores adds.
How to Treat GERD
Best case scenario when it comes to GERD and symptom management? Losing weight and change your overall lifestyle, Estores says. Some studies have found a large decrease in symptoms after weightloss and an increase in symptoms after weight gain.
Amendment of the plan
According to a study published in Diseases of the esophagus.
“I always tell people not to eat to lessen or lessen your GERD symptoms because the number one killer for patients is not reflux. It’s done heart disease,Estores explains. “So, you know, if you take it in conjunction with your whole body, then changing your diet makes more sense.”
Other lifestyle recommendations include making sure you don’t lie down soon after eating or using a wedge pillow, and avoiding eating large meals, Sonu says. Beyond, do not eat late at night, which can also increase stomach acid production. Even eating more slowly can also help, says Bailey.
“If you’ve tried lifestyle changes and you’re still not getting relief, you can either consult your GP or start a regimen of over-the-counter acid reflux medications,” Sonu says. “If you need it long term, then it should generally be taken with the advice of at least one primary care doctor.”
Of course, says Estores, if you have esophageal cancer risk factors Or Barrett’s esophaguswhich may be accentuated for older, sedentary and overweight men, you should consult a doctor.
“It’s not just about protecting your esophagus from damage or progression to a precancerous condition or other GERD-related complications,” Estores adds. “But it really should be, you know, more of a lifestyle change focused on promoting your health. And if you recognize that, I think you’re in a better place.
Learn more: Is the Mediterranean diet healthy?