Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is when the contents of the stomach regularly come back up into the food pipe, which is the muscular tube that connects the throat to the stomach. This regurgitation results in uncomfortable symptoms of heartburn.
When a person swallows, food passes through the food pipe to the stomach. A ring of muscle tissue called the lower esophageal sphincter contracts after allowing food into the stomach. This stops the food from coming back up into the food pipe.
GERD causes acid reflux and heartburn.
When the esophageal sphincter does not close correctly, the contents of the stomach can leak back into the food pipe, causing GERD. When the symptoms of GERD occur more than twice a week for a period of more than 3 weeks, it is considered to be a chronic disorder.
The Trigger-Food Diet
The trigger-food diet involves eliminating common trigger foods, such as coffee and chocolate, in order to reduce symptoms. These methods have little clinical backing and results vary between individuals.
A guideline published by the American College of Gastroenterology states that eliminating trigger foods is not recommended in the treatment of GERD, because the dietary connection is not simple. The guideline suggests that, rather than eliminating foods that trigger symptoms, the aim should be to heal the digestive system.
WHAT TO AVOID
The effects of the condition can be reduced by avoiding certain trigger foods and following other dietary tips.
Since GERD is a digestive disorder, there is often a link between a person’s diet and their symptoms. Because of this, dietary and lifestyle changes can go a long way toward treating many cases of GERD. An article published in the Gastroenterology Research and Practice Journal found a connection between reflux esophagitis and diets that are high in certain items.
Foods that may worsen GERD symptoms include:
- Meat, which tends to be high in cholesterol and fatty acids
- Oils and high-fat foods, which may cause the sphincter in the stomach to relax
- Salt in high quantities
- Calcium-rich foods, such as milk, meat, and cheese, possibly because they are also high in saturated fat
A study published in Gut and Liver looked at the relationship between cow’s milk allergies and GERD symptoms in children. Researchers found that children with allergies to cow’s milk are likely to experience symptoms of GERD when drinking it. More research is needed to confirm whether this is also the case for adults. If a person experiences symptoms of GERD regularly after eating dairy products made from cow’s milk, it may be a good idea to eliminate them from the diet.
Another study, published in Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics, explored the relationship between cholesterol and GERD. The results indicated that people who consumed more cholesterol, saturated fatty acids, and more calories from fat experienced more GERD symptoms.
Other food flare-ups
Carbonated drinks can worsen the symptoms. There are also other foods that some doctors recommend people with GERD avoid. Foods that may cause GERD to flare up include;
3. Carbonated beverages.
4. Acidic drinks such as orange juice and coffee.
5. Acidic foods such as tomato sauce.
While there is little clinical evidence that these foods are linked to GERD, the experiences of some people with the condition suggests that these foods may make symptoms worse and should, therefore, be avoided.
FOODS THAT MAY HELP WITH GERD SYMPTOMS
Until recently, GERD was not very well understood. There was little clinical evidence to suggest that changing the diet could change the symptoms. A 2013 study of over 500 people found that some foods appear to reduce the incidence of GERD symptoms. Foods that may reduce symptoms include
- Protein from low-cholesterol sources such as tuna, salmon, cashews, almonds, and lentils.
- Certain carbohydrates, found in natural fruits, vegetables, and some grains.
- Vitamin C, for example in potatoes, may help to reduce symptoms.
- Fruits such as berries, apples, melons, peaches, citrus fruits, and tomatoes may help.
- Eggs, despite their cholesterol content, appear to reduce the symptoms.
- Fiber in the diet has been linked to fewer GERD symptoms. Researchers have noted that as people increase the levels of dietary fiber in their diet, the symptoms of the disease.