Ever feel like you have a fire stemming from your stomach up to your throat? Well it could be the typical “heartburn” sensation or it could be something known as GERD- gastroesophageal reflux disease- a condition that causes the acid in your stomach to rise into your esophagus and consequently irritate the lining of the esophagus. How to tell the difference? Heartburn can occur sporadically, infrequently, and after eating certain foods and is also a symptom of GERD. GERD however, is more chronic and long-term and the heartburn sensation associated with it is experienced more frequently. If you experience heartburn more than twice per week, you may have GERD.
Common Symptoms Include:
Burning in the chest after eating
Regurgitation of food/liquid
Bitter taste in your mouth/throat
Those with GERD may have trouble swallowing or feel as though their throat is scratchy or as if food is getting stuck when trying to swallow. The stomach is meant to have some acid, the food pipe is not. The muscle at the end of the food pipe is called the lower esophageal sphincter and when this relaxes or weakens, reflux results. So, when GERD starts pumping food and bile out of your stomach and up your throat, the acidic contents can quite literally burn and leave a bitter taste in the mouth.
Common Trigger Foods Include:
• Citrus Fruits/Juices
• Carbonated Beverages
• Mints (peppermint, spearmint)
• Tomato products
• Fried, greasy foods
• Spicy Foods
• Garlic and onions
• High-fat foods
Common Causes Include:
• Smoking or regular exposure to secondhand smoke
• Alcohol consumption
• A type of hernia called a hiatal hernia
• Eating large meals
• Eating late at night or just before bed
• Frequent consumption of acidic foods and drinks
Tips to Manage Symptoms:
Diet and lifestyle modifications are generally recommended before exploring
other treatment options such as medications or additional surgery.
• Eating smaller, more frequent meals
• Eat slowly and chew food thoroughly
• Avoiding high-fat foods such as red meat, full-fat cheese, full-fat ice cream, etc.
• Staying upright for 1-2 hour after meals
• Avoid eating 2-3 hours before bedtime
• Avoid/Limit common trigger foods
• Elevate head of bed 6-9 inches
• Quit smoking
• Cut back on caffeine consumption
• Increase fiber intake: To promote intestinal health and avoid overeating. Sources include oatmeal, beans, whole grains, and vegetables.
• Focus on lean proteins: High fat proteins, such red meat and shellfish , are often a trigger for symptoms. Focus on obtaining adequate protein from sources such as chicken, turkey, fish, and egg whites.
Take-Aways: GERD, though uncomfortable, is not uncommon and can often be adequately managed with the suggestions listed above. If you are diagnosed, the options for symptom relief and treatment are plenty.
By Shelby Keys, RD
I have worked with various groups and individuals in the corporate wellness sector, long term care, as well as currently in bariatrics. I’ve been a practicing RD for several years, utilizing behavioral change theories and mindful eating principles to help facilitate change. I also privately train clients and implement health and fitness programs to meet individual needs. My philosophy encompasses a lifestyle approach where I fully believe that optimal health can be achieved and maintained through balance and moderation with food choices.