What is GERD?
Gastoesophageal reflux disease (GERD) happens when the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) does not close properly or remains in a relaxed state allowing acidic stomach contents to splash or leak back up into the esophagus. The burning or discomfort that is felt in the chest is caused by the acidic contents touching the lining of the esophagus. The LES is a ring-like muscle that separates the stomach and esophagus and when functioning properly it will close and create a barrier between the two so contents of the stomach cannot travel back up the esophagus.
What are some dietary guidelines for reducing GERD symptoms?
The following diet and lifestyle guidelines can reduce the reflux of stomach contents into the esophagus thereby reducing the uncomfortable symptoms and irritation experienced. If GERD is a result of hiatal hernia or H pylori these guidelines may not apply. Avoidance of the following foods can reduce reflux and irritation to the esophagus:
- Spices/spicy foods (especially chili and cayenne)
- Citrus fruits – lemons, oranges, limes, grapefruit, pomelo
- Caffeinated beverages (regular coffee, regular tea, cola and energy drinks)
- Tomato products, including tomato sauce and tomato juice
- Carbonated beverages
- High fat foods and fried greasy foods
- Mints (spearmint, peppermint)
Are there behavioural or lifestyle modifications that can reduce GERD symptoms?
- Eat slowly and chew foods thoroughly. Allow foods to breakdown and enzymes to do their work; aim for 1-2 swallows per minute. Read more here about practicing mindful eating.
- Limit fluids with meals. Staying well hydrated is important, but drinking fluids will fill stomach and increase stomach pressure. Hydrate pre and post meals. Try our 9 day hydration challenge.
- Avoid high-fat meals and fried, greasy foods. Fat takes the longest time to leave the stomach thereby prolonging the length of time food stays in the stomach.
- Stop eating at 80% full. Large meals can increase stomach pressure thereby increasing reflux.
- Discontinue any late night meals. Aim to complete eating 2-3 hours before bed and avoid laying down for 30-45 minutes following a meal.
- Positioning. When you are laying down opt to lay on your left side versus your right side. It has been found that left-side laying can calm heartburn versus ride-side laying can aggravate.
- Maintain a comfortable weight. Excess weight around the abdomen can increase stomach pressure.
- Wear loose fitting clothing. Tight clothing can contribute to increased pressure in the stomach.
- Sugar-free gum 30 min after a meal. This can increase frequency of swallowing thereby improving clearance of reflux in the esophagus.
- Smoking cessation. Smoking exacerbates reflux and can relax the LES and allow stomach contents to leak back.
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