Forty percent of the Americans suffer from heartburn once a month and between 15 and 20 percent experience it at least once a week. When it becomes a part of your daily life, you may be experiencing gastroesophageal reflux disease. Also called GERD, it is the result of acid in the stomach that escapes into the esophagus. The lower esophageal sphincter (LES) keeps food in the stomach, but when its pressure is altered, it can open and allow food to rise into the esophagus. By eating foods that maintain the pressure of the LES, avoid those that lower it and make simple lifestyle changes you can keep your GERD under control.
A diet that is high in protein will stimulate gastric secretion and increase the pressure of the LES. This will prevent the gastric juices from returning to the esophagus. Make sure your protein choices are low in fat, as high-fat meats will worsen the symptoms of GERD. Low-fat protein options include oven-baked or grilled chicken without skin, fish, turkey, beans and legumes.
A diet high in fiber is associated with a decreased risk of developing Barrett's esophagus, a result of chronic GERD. Total fiber, as well as the fiber of fruits and vegetables, is associated with a lower risk and may have a protective effect against the symptoms of GERD. Try to consume between 20 and 35 grams of fiber a day of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans and legumes.
When stomach acid enters the mouth, it can cause tooth erosion and bad breath. Chewing gum without sugar after meals can reduce reflux due to increased production of saliva, which creates an increase in the frequency of swallowing. As you swallow, you eliminate the reflux of your mouth, which prevents the disintegration of teeth and gums.
Foods to avoid
When it comes to managing GERD, what you do not eat is sometimes more important than what you eat. Fatty foods, caffeine, chocolate, mint, garlic, onion and alcohol lower the pressure of the LES, resulting in an increase in symptoms. Foods that are high in acid, such as citrus juices, tomato juices and other spices can irritate the esophagus and should be avoided if they cause unwanted symptoms.
Changes in lifestyle
A change in lifestyle can provide drastic relief to patients with GERD. Avoid smoking and being close to those who smoke, since it reduces the pressure of the lower esophageal sphincter and slows the emptying speed of the stomach. Raising the head of the bed to 6 inches allows gravity to keep food in the stomach.The swelling causes the LES to weaken, avoid eating smaller meals and stop eating two or three hours before going to bed. Losing excess weight will also help relieve symptoms. If your GERD worsens, visit your doctor to determine the best treatment for you.