If you’re someone who suffers from a heartburn-like sensation after eating or upon waking, your body is trying to tell you something. It’s telling you that the food choices you are making are not working. What you may be experiencing is gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, and resolving the problem is going to take more than swallowing a “purple pill.”
GERD occurs when stomach acid backs up into the tube through which food travels from the mouth to the stomach. That action, known as acid reflux, can irritate the lining of that tube, which is known as the esophagus. GERD is caused by a relaxation of the sphincter muscle, which is a band that closes off the esophagus after food has been taken in. When the band becomes weakened because of excess weight or other health issues, it can stay open and produce that acid reflux.
A key remedy for GERD includes avoiding the triggers of GERD. Food and drink that can cause GERD include:
- Fatty foods are more difficult to digest, create additional acid, and lead to what? Obesity, of course.
- Citrus or acidic foods like grapefruit and tomatoes. That includes juices and foods with tomato sauce such as pizza. Citrus and acidic foods can increase the amount of acid in the stomach, making it more likely that a backup will occur.
- Alcohol and caffeinated drinks. While alcohol can relax the sphincter muscle, caffeinated drinks like coffee are acidic.
- Chocolate is typically high in fat content and contains caffeine—a double whammy when it comes to GERD. It doesn’t help that the serotonin released when a yummy piece of chocolate is eaten relaxes the sphincter muscle, according to a study by University of Michigan Health System.
- Peppermint. Believe it or not, the very remedy for heartburn can also cause it. That’s because peppermint can relax the sphincter muscle, literally leaving the “door” open for acid reflux.
On the other hand, there are few good-for-you foodstuffs that can also improve GERD symptoms. These include:
- Vegetables are naturally low-fat and can help reduce stomach acid.
- High-alkaline fruits such as melon and bananas. These can actually neutralize stomach acid.
- Oatmeal absorbs acid in the stomach, which helps alleviate symptoms.
- Egg whites and lean meats. Egg whites are naturally low fat and lean meats include chicken, turkey, and fish.
- Healthy fats such as those found in avocados, olive oil, and walnuts.
- Ginger is a natural inflammation reducer.
In addition to modifying your diet, also avoid smoking and medications that irritate the stomach lining such as aspirin and ibuprofen. And resist the urge to eat a heavy meal before lying down.
GERD can also cause symptoms such as chest pain, trouble swallowing, cough or laryngitis upon waking, or even asthma. There is even compelling and indisputable evidence of the link between GERD and cancer of the esophagus. Chronic GERD leads to a condition known as Barrett’s esophagus, a premalignant condition that increases the risk for esophageal cancer.
Taking a “purple pill” isn’t the answer to ending the battle with GERD. It really takes keeping weight in check and eating healthy choices to win back your life.
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