We’ve become a pill popping culture. Headache? Pop a pill. Backache? Pop a pill. Got a cold? Pop a pill…
Manage acid reflux and GERD
A burning issue…
Do you remember when you were young and could eat anything you wanted without any digestive issues? Aaaahhhh, those were the days….
Digestive symptoms are one of the main health concerns I come across and the most common issue related to that is acid reflux. That’s probably not surprising because in the UK it affects around 40% of the adult population.
What is the difference between acid reflux and GERD?
Let’s start from the basics: acid reflux happens because when the food you eat arrives in your stomach, a little valve that separates your oesophagus from your stomach (called lower oesophageal sphincter) does not close properly. This allows your stomach acid to head back up in your oesophagus, making you experience symptoms such as burning in your chest (heartburn) or a sour taste in your mouth.
Experiencing acid reflux every now and then is ok (we have all overeaten at times like Christmas right?), but if you start suffering from it more than twice a week over several weeks without any improvements, you may have developed another condition called GERD (Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux Disease). This should be looked at by your doctor in order to avoid more serious issues in the future.
What are the common symptoms for GERD?
Symptoms can vary from one person to another but include:
- Acid Regurgitation
- Difficulty Swallowing
- Feeling a tightness in the throat
- Dry Cough, worse at night
- Bad Breath
What risk factors increase the chance of GERD?
You are more likely to experience GERD if any of these scenarios relate to you:
- Being overweight or obese
- Having Hiatal Hernia
- Long-term use of NSAID’s (Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs)
Antacids are probably the most common over the counter (OTC) medications you may reach for, to provide relief from GERD, however I would always suggest talking to your GP first.
It is always a good idea to keep a food diary, tracking how certain foods make you feel, as this will help you to pinpoint potential culprits. A Registered Nutritional Therapist can be helpful in guiding and supporting you on this journey, including looking at your lifestyle to see if you could incorporate simple changes to improve the situation.
Should you choose to, your nutritional therapist can also liaise with your GP for a more comprehensive type of support as it is always useful to have your healthcare practitioners communicate with each other.
If you’re regularly experiencing acid reflux you may have ‘GERD’
Diet changes to manage GERD
Let’s look at some examples of dietary and lifestyle suggestions you may want to think about to manage GERD.
Foods to decrease/avoid:
Things like fried foods, processed meats and salad dressings can relax the sphincter in your stomach which won’t help your cause
Coffee and Tea
Due to their caffeine content, these everyday drinks can aggravate reflux symptoms. Instead try herbal teas such as liquorice, camomile, tulsi, slippery elm or marshmallow which all have a soothing effect instead
I’m sorry, but don’t shoot the messenger! Chocolate can cause an increase in acidity in the first hour after ingestion, therefore potentially making symptoms worse
Tomatoes (including sauces, ketchup and soup)
They are a naturally acidic food and so should be avoided while you have symptoms
Unfortunately, alcohol can relax the sphincter valve whilst also stimulating acid production in your stomach
Food to have more of:
High fibre foods
These types of foods can make you feel fuller for longer which can help you avoid overeating – a major cause of acid reflux. Examples of high fibre foods are:
- Wholegrains – couscous, brown rice, oatmeal
- Root vegetables – sweet potatoes, parsnips, carrots
- Green vegetables – think asparagus, broccoli, green beans
These types of food have a higher PH than acidic foods and can help offset strong stomach acid. Some examples of alkaline foods are:
Restoring a healthy microbiome
The environment in your gut contains a mix of harmful and beneficial bacteria. Having more beneficial bacteria than harmful creates a better environment for efficient digestion, thus avoiding any issues.
Probiotic and prebiotic foods in your diet will help create a healthier gut microbiome by leading to more beneficial bacteria so this is a great place to start:
These food contain natural probiotic properties:
- Raw Sauerkraut
- Raw Kimchi
- Raw fermented pickles and vegetables
These foods feed the beneficial bacteria in your gut:
- Greener Bananas
- Jerusalem artichokes
For a full list of high fibre foods, probiotics and prebiotics personalised to your body type and wellbeing status, log into your Superfied Space.
Lifestyle changes to manage GERD
How you eat your food, how much you eat, when you eat it and what your lifestyle habits are like will all have a bearing on how easily you can manage acid reflux and GERD. Here are some practical self-care tips:
- Sit upright whilst eating and keep the upright position, instead of slouching on a couch for example, for 45-60 minutes
- Leave 3 hours between your last meal and bedtime
- Try raising the head in bed by between 6 to 8 inches
- Avoid smoking
- Optimise your weight (ie find your natural body weight)
- If you are used to large meal portions, think about portion control (as much as you can fit into two cupped hands for each meal)
- Address any sources of stress (managing stress always sets you up for better wellbeing)
In summary, acid reflux symptoms can be managed but should you notice these symptoms are happening regularly for several weeks even after applying diet and lifestyle changes, please have a chat with your GP to get professional support and find out what your options are.
- Management of GERD, The Primary Care Strategy. Yale Journal Biol & Med.
- 1999; 72: 203-9
- A Argyrou, E Legaki, C Koutserimpas, M Gazouli, I Papaconstantinou, G Gkiokas, and G Karamanolis. Risk Factors for Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease and Analysis of Genetic Contributors. World J Clin Cases. 2018 Aug 16; 6 (8): 176-182
- EM Song, H-K Jung, and JM Jung. The Association Between Reflux Esophagitis and Psychological Stress. Dig Dis Sci. 2013 Feb; 58 (2): 471-477.
- American College of Gastroenterology. Acid Reflux. Accessed 11/20/2019
- Boeckxstaens GE. Review article: the pathophysiology of gastro-oesophageal reflux disease. Aliment Pharmacol Ther 2007;26:149-160
This self-care health hack is from Superfied nutritional therapy expert, Valentina Cartago
Find out more about the Superfied Way