What Are the Symptoms of GERD and How To Treat It

You may experience a burning sensation in your chest, also known as heartburn, shortly after eating or drinking. You may feel something rising from your stomach into your throat, or even have to swallow or spit it out.

Any of these symptoms can indicate it gastroesophageal reflux diseaseaka GERD, says David Estores, a gastroenterologist at the University of Florida School of Medicine.

What are the symptoms of GERD?

Heartburn and acid regurgitation are the two most common symptoms of GERD, as is chest pain after a meal. The disease also affects many people. In the US, researchers estimate about 20 percent of the adult population suffers from GERD, according to a study published in the journal Colon.

Experts often recommend that patients avoid eating certain foods such as citrus fruits, tomatoes, Coffee, Chocolate, alcohol, peppermint, spicy foods and high-fat foods. And there’s no doubt that some people benefit from these limitations. But how much of a role does your diet really play?

Here’s what some of the most recent research shows and what else experts recommend when it comes to GERD and eating habits. In fact, some experts suggest that simply cutting out things like citrus fruits or coffee might not be as easy as changing your habits altogether.

Why Do Experts Recommend Diet Changes?

When you swallow something, it travels down a long tube known as the esophagus and reaches a valve known as the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). This valve is like a safety gate that allows substances to enter the stomach.

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The catch? The LES is not supposed to allow things to happen. However, certain substances cause relaxation, which allows the acidic stomach contents to move back up. This stomach acid can be irritating, cause symptoms, and lead to further complications and damage over time.

Continue reading: Why stomach acid is super powerful – and super important

What foods to avoid with gerd?

Alcohol, chocolate, peppermint, and high-fat foods have been shown in laboratory studies to cause relaxation of the LES, according to the authors 2022 American College of Gastroenterology (AGC) Clinical Guidelines.. Therefore, these items can contribute to GERD in some patients.

In addition to relaxing the LES, fatty foods tend to stay in the stomach longer than other foods, which can slow down your overall digestion, says Irene Sonu, a gastroenterologist at Stanford University.

“If your meal sits in your stomach for a long time, it can lead to more acid production from your stomach and more acid reflux,” says Sonu.

Continue reading: Stomach pain? Your gut bacteria could be to blame

What other foods to avoid with GERD?

Other foods and beverages, such as coffee, caffeine, citrus fruits, and spicy foods, had “little to no effect on LES” in laboratory studies, according to ACG guidelines. Still, they can be more acidic and irritating than other foods, which can cause symptoms. Other studies And Sources report coffee and caffeine relax the LES.

Also in a 2020 study of a large cohort of female nursesParticipants who consumed six or more servings of coffee, tea, and soda daily experienced increased gastroesophageal reflux symptoms compared to those who had none.

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The researchers also found that when two servings of these drinks were swapped out for water, a less acidic and more neutral drink emerged the pH scale, resulted in fewer symptoms. However, drinking other acidic juices such as orange and tomato did not cause reflux symptoms, further complicating the narrative.

Should you cut out these foods altogether?

As the study above shows, not everyone gets symptoms from acidic products. Likewise, cutting out citrus fruits, tomatoes and other foods completely means avoiding a plethora of healthy options, explains Andrea Bailey, nutritionist at Top Nutrition Coaching.

Instead, she recommends keeping a food journal for about two to three weeks to see if there’s a culprit for you. Then you can reduce or remove those products and see if there is an improvement.

Also, eliminating items entirely may not be realistic and can result in a high rate of recidivism, Esstores says. Estones is an avid coffee drinker. He admits he would have a hard time getting rid of coffee altogether.

“I’d probably be one of those people who would say I’m more open to taking medication and giving up coffee altogether,” says Estones.

That’s not to say there aren’t circumstances where certain things shouldn’t be eliminated. For example, if you experience severe symptoms after drinking an alcoholic beverage and may Barrett’s esophagusthen yes, alcohol avoidance can be important, adds Estores.

How to treat GERD

The best case scenario when it comes to GERD and treating the symptoms? lose weight and change your lifestyle altogether, Estores says. Some studies have found a sharp decrease in symptoms afterwards weight loss and an increase in symptoms thereafter weight gain.

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diet change

Researchers have also found that sticking to a Mediterranean-style diet is also helpful compared to diets high in red meat, fried foods, sweets and fast foods, according to a study published in Diseases of the esophagus.

“I always tell people that you simply shouldn’t eat anything to relieve or reduce the symptoms of your gastroesophageal reflux disease because the number one killer of patients is not reflux. It actually is heart disease,“explains Esstores. “Well, you know, if you’re taking it in conjunction with your whole body, then it makes more sense to change your diet.”

lifestyle recommendations

Other lifestyle recommendations include making sure you don’t lie down shortly after eating or using a wedge pillow and avoiding large meals, Sonu says. In addition, do not eat late at night, which can also increase stomach acid production. Eating slower can also help, says Bailey.

“If you’ve tried lifestyle changes and you’re still not getting relief, you can either see your GP or start with an over-the-counter (OTC) medication for acid reflux,” says Sonu. “If you need it long-term, then this should usually be done under the guidance of at least one GP.”

Medical supplies

Of course Estores says if you have Risk factors for esophageal cancer or Barrett’s esophaguswhich can be increased in older men who are sedentary and overweight, you should consult a doctor.

“It’s not just about protecting your esophagus from damage or progression to precancerous lesions or other complications associated with GERD,” adds Esstores. “But it really should be more of a lifestyle change focused on promoting your health. And if you realize that, then I think you’re in a better place.”

Continue reading: Is the Mediterranean Diet Healthy?

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