Follow these tips to minimize the pain and discomfort associated with GERD, also called acid reflux or heartburn.
Avoid potential trigger foods.
When it comes to your diet, eating smaller meals is by far the most important step you can take to prevent reflux, more so than changing the foods you eat. That said, there are specific foods that can aggravate symptoms in certain individuals. The most common culprits are fried or fatty foods, alcohol, caffeinated beverages like coffee and tea, chocolate, mints and mint-flavored items, citrus juices and fruits, tomatoes and tomato sauce, spicy foods, onions, garlic, and carbonated beverages. Everyone has different triggers, though, so if you find that these foods don’t cause you any discomfort, you can continue to enjoy them.
Cut the fat.
Lay off the chicken wings, fried foods, deep-dish pizza, and marbled steak. High-fat meals like these relax the LES and delay stomach emptying, making it more likely that you’ll experience reflux. Instead, make lean proteins (like skinless poultry, seafood, beans, and lean cuts of red meat) and fiber-rich produce and whole grains your diet staples.
Shed extra pounds.
Being overweight is a major contributor to heartburn. Overweight individuals are twice as likely to suffer from symptoms of GERD as are people of a healthy weight. Extra weight may increase pressure on the stomach, causing the LES muscle to relax, which allows stomach backflow. Body fat may also release chemicals that interfere with normal digestive functioning. The good news is that research shows losing even a small amount of weight can help relieve symptoms and control heartburn. If you need help getting started, check out my four-step online weight-loss program, which provides daily meal plans, healthy recipes, access to a personal nutrition coach, and handy trackers to help you succeed.
Limit beverages during meals.
If you suffer from GERD, limit your fluid intake with meals. Liquids add to the volume of food in your stomach and increases stomach distension. A full belly puts more pressure on the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), the muscle that normally prevents food from moving back up into your esophagus, and thus adds to your risk of reflux. To minimize stomach volume, take small sips of water while you eat, and try to drink mostly between rather than during meals.
- Relax and eat your food slowly.
- Quit smoking.
- Chew cinnamon gum after meals.
- Wear loose fitting clothing.
- Don’t lie down after eating.
- Incorporate moderate exercise.