Have you been in a state of discomfort intermittently after having a particular meal? You may feel a burning sensation in your chest region, experience difficulty in swallowing foods, feel like you have a lump in your throat area, or as though what you have eaten finds a way to get back into your mouth? This may be a sign indicating gastroesophageal reflux disease which occurs because the number of gastric juice that flows back into the esophagus (the part of the alimentary canal connecting the throat to the stomach) exceeds its normal limit. Taking these tips into consideration would help manage symptoms you may be experiencing.
- Aim at a healthy weight: studies have shown that having a weight too big for your height may cause your lower esophageal sphincter to malfunction leading to a rise in intra-abdominal pressure. This in turn can cause reflux and heartburn to set in. Work towards your ideal weight and you will gradually see an improvement in symptoms (your dietitian can help with this!)
- Reduce intake of foods that may worsen symptoms: constantly consuming foods high in fat, overly spicy food, chocolates, raw onions, garlic, high citric fruits, heavily salted foods can trigger symptoms because they can cause an increase in esophageal acid exposure after eating. Limit how much you consume foods excessively high in fat and watch out for other foods that may worsen your symptoms.
- Quit smoking: Many studies have shown that individuals who smoke stand a higher risk of experiencing GERD symptoms more frequently than non-smokers. This is because, smoking reduces the secretion of saliva leading to a decrease in its effect on the intra-esophageal acid thereby prolonging acid clearance, making symptoms to be reoccurring. Avoiding smoking would help reduce episodes of reflux.
- Split your meals: having three large meals a day may make you feel really full and bloated. This can increase the pressure upward against your lower esophageal sphincter, causing symptoms to trigger. Instead of having your usual three large meals daily, you may decide to split meals into 5-6 small portions especially if you experience delayed stomach emptying frequently.
- Watch your alcohol and caffeine intake: excessive use of alcohol and caffeine may increase the episodes of GERD. This is because these products increase stomach acid, and alter the function of the lower esophageal sphincter thereby causing a trigger in symptoms. Limit how much and how often you use these products.
- Choose your carbs: intake of carbs has an effect on the GI tract. Findings suggest that consuming foods high in carbs increases esophageal acid exposure time which can trigger symptoms of reflux. Another finding showed that individuals who consumed foods rich in whole grains fiber had improvements in their symptoms than those who consumed foods rich in refined carbs. To keep symptoms at bay, consume less refined carbs and consume more whole grains.
- Adopt the Mediterranean diet: People who consume a special kind of diet “the Mediterranean diet” which includes a high intake of fruits (low acidic fruits), vegetables, whole grains, and no fat/low-fat foods, had a lower occurrence of GERD symptoms compared to those who do not consume this type of diet. Shop for these foods and practice mindful eating!
You shouldn’t worry or feel unhappy if you are battling with this condition. Remember, it can be well managed if you put these tips into consideration. Need to speak with a registered dietitian? We’re willing to help, click the ‘consult the dietitian’ button to get started!
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- PCRM’s Nutrition Guide for Clinicians.