GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease):
Does the burning sensation in your chest after a meal keep you up at night? Are there certain foods that worsen this discomfort? If so, then you may be living with Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD). This blog will explore GERD’s causes and symptoms – as well as dietary changes and lifestyle modifications to help manage its effects.
Causes and Symptoms of GERD:
The primary cause of GERD is a weak lower esophageal sphincter, which allows stomach acid to reflux into the oesophagus. Repeated exposure to stomach acid irritates the lining of the oesophagus, often causing it to become inflamed. Obesity, hiatal hernia, pregnancy, and delayed gastric emptying are some of the other conditions which can increase the risk of developing GERD.
The symptoms of GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) can vary from person to person, but the most common symptoms include:
- Pain or discomfort in the upper abdomen: GERD can cause pain or discomfort in the upper abdomen, often referred to as “indigestion.” This pain can range from a dull ache to a sharp, intense discomfort.
- Burping or hiccuping frequently: GERD can cause frequent burping, which can be an indicator of the condition.
- Feeling bloated or full even after a small meal: People with GERD may feel bloated or full even after eating a small meal, which can be due to the accumulation of gas in the stomach.
- Acidic taste in the mouth: GERD can cause a sour or acidic taste in the mouth, which can be accompanied by regurgitation of food or sour liquid.
- Chest discomfort or a burning sensation that worsens when lying down or bending over: GERD can cause chest discomfort or a burning sensation that worsens when lying down or bending over, which is often referred to as “heartburn.”
- Waking up at night with chest pain or a sour taste in the mouth: People with GERD may wake up at night with chest pain or a sour taste in the mouth due to the backflow of stomach acid.
- Chronic sore throat or hoarseness: GERD can cause chronic sore throat or hoarseness because stomach acid irritates the throat and vocal cords.
- Trouble breathing or wheezing: GERD can cause trouble breathing or wheezing due to the irritation of the airways by stomach acid.
- Damage to tooth enamel from repeated exposure to stomach acid: GERD can cause damage to tooth enamel from repeated exposure to stomach acid, which can lead to tooth sensitivity and other oral health problems.
It is important to note that some people with GERD may not experience any symptoms, while others may have severe symptoms. If you have persistent symptoms, it is recommended that you seek medical evaluation.
Dietary Management of GERD:
For those living with GERD, your nutrition can play a vital role in managing symptoms. Research suggests that avoiding certain trigger foods like chocolate and caffeine, citric foods, carbonated beverages, spicy foods, and condiments that are high in fat may help lessen the severity of the above discussed symptoms–but did you know that increasing dietary fibre intake could be an effective way to do just as much?
A study published by the Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology found high-fibre diets associated with a lower risk of developing or exacerbating already present GERD issues. So if making some tweaks to incorporate more fibre into your diet sounds appealing, it might be worth exploring and enjoying all sorts of delicious fruits & veggies) on top of not overindulging in sweets!
Low dietary fibre intake has been associated with decreased gut motility and delayed gastric emptying. This may contribute to the risk of developing GERD. Fruits and vegetables are packed with fibres. Including a variety of colourful fruits and vegetables in your diet aids in digestion and also helps to control acid reflux.
A breakthrough study published in the Journal of Digestive Diseases has indicated that probiotics may be a powerful solution for managing GERD symptoms. By restoring the balance of good bacteria in the gut, taking these beneficial microorganisms could potentially help reduce painful and disruptive symptoms associated with this condition – bringing welcome relief to sufferers while improving overall gut health.
Probiotics are live microorganisms when taken in adequate amounts aid in maintaining the intestinal microflora. Yogurt, kefir, miso, kimchi, tempeh, and kombucha are some of the fermented food products that are rich in probiotics. Probiotics can play a very important role in the treatment of GERD. Studies have suggested that the consumption of probiotics during dysbiosis, which is a common symptom seen in GERD, can promote gastrointestinal homeostasis and stimulate the growth of beneficial indigenous gut microbes.
Lifestyle modifications for GERD:
Healthy lifestyle habits can be a game-changer in managing GERD. While skipping breakfast, eating too quickly, and beyond fullness are common triggers for this disorder, it’s possible to reduce symptoms by making intentional changes such as proper spacing out meals throughout the day, following an appropriate diet pattern, avoiding large servings of food and taking time while you eat – simple steps that make all the difference!
- Skipping breakfast – When you are on an empty stomach, there is a buildup of digestive acids in the stomach, which causes the erosion of the mucosal lining causing acidity or heartburn. Breakfast is an important meal of the day, it is advised not to skip breakfast to prevent the onset of GERD.
- Eating too quickly- Eating too fast can cause acid reflux. That is the stomach content washes up into the oesophagus.
- Eating beyond fullness – (80% for fullness)-Overeating can contribute to acid reflux, tightness in the chest, and a feeling of food stuck in your throat.
- Lying right after a meal – going to bed right after a meal can cause the stomach contents to backflow into the oesophagus which causes heartburn- a major symptom of GERD.
- Consuming foods that are high in fats, citric foods, sodas, and spicy foods- eating these kinds of foods can act as a trigger and worsen the symptoms of GERD which is heartburn, acid reflux or regurgitation, and sour or acidic mouth feel. Avoiding these foods can help with GERD symptoms.
Simple lifestyle modification to try:
- Mindful eating – Using all of the physical and emotional senses to experience and enjoy the food choices that you make. Eating mindfully helps to prevent common digestive problems like indigestion, heartburn, and bloating.
- Quitting smoking and drinking alcohol- cessation of smoking and drinking can be an effective way for reducing acid reflux.
- Maintaining a healthy weight- an increase in weight can create pressure in the abdomen and lower esophageal sphincter. Signing up for weight loss programs can be a primary step to reverse the symptoms of GERD.
- Frequent small meals- having small meals every 2-3 hours lowers the chances of regurgitation
- Avoid eating snacks or meals just before bedtime- having meals right before bedtime aggravates the symptoms of GERD because the stomach contents backflow causing acid reflux or regurgitation
Maintaining a healthy weight is the key to managing GERD symptoms, with research indicating that even small amounts of weight loss can have major benefits. Quitting smoking and drinking alcohol are also effective for reducing the severity of acid reflux-related problems – being proactive about lifestyle choices can help protect against further health complications!
GERD is a condition where the gastric contents back wash creating symptoms like heartburn, acid reflux, or regurgitation. GERD is curable with proper dietary and lifestyle modifications. The above discussed strategies help with controlling and reversing the symptoms of GERD.
Myths about GERD:
Myth: Eating late at night causes GERD.
Eating late at night does not directly cause GERD but can worsen the symptoms. Going to bed right after your dinner causes your stomach acids to flow back into the oesophagus causing regurgitation. This left untreated is the main cause of GERD.
Myth: GERD only affects older people.
GERD can affect people of all ages, including children and young adults. However, the risk of GERD increases with age and is more commonly seen in older adults.
Myth: Drinking milk can relieve GERD symptoms.
There is no scientific evidence suggesting that drinking milk can help with relieving the symptoms of GERD. It has also been said that consuming milk actually worsens the symptoms of GERD. This may be due to the fact that the fat content in milk can cause acid reflux.
Myth: GERD is caused by overeating.
Common belief that overeating is a primary cause of GERD is a myth. While overeating can certainly increase pressure in the stomach and cause symptoms like acid reflux to occur, it is not the underlying cause of GERD.
The actual causes of GERD are complex and can include factors such as a weak lower esophageal sphincter, hiatal hernia, and certain foods or medications that trigger symptoms. Overeating may be a contributing factor for some people with GERD, but it is not the root cause for most individuals.
It is always recommended to consult a doctor for a proper diagnosis and personalized treatment plan for GERD.
Facts about GERD:
- GERD left untreated over a long period can lead to permanent damage to the Oesophagus.
- GERD can be caused by a hiatal hernia, which occurs when part of the stomach pushes up into the chest through an opening in the diaphragm.
- GERD symptoms can be exacerbated by stress and anxiety. GERD can be caused by certain medications, including aspirin, ibuprofen, and certain muscle relaxants.
- GERD can cause a persistent cough and can be mistaken for asthma
- Consuming specific food does not cause GERD but can worsen the symptoms.
GERD is a common condition that can cause uncomfortable symptoms, but luckily there are things you can do to help manage it. However, if you’re still having trouble, don’t hesitate and seek medical attention – they can provide you with an accurate diagnosis as well as a tailored treatment plan to best suit your needs.