Before we can talk about how to prevent and treat Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), we have to understand what’s causing the problem.
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease) affects 10-20% of people in the United States on a weekly basis.
The simple explanation for why people have GERD is that they have a Lower Esophageal Sphincter (LES) that is a bit lazy and likes to act up.
The LES’s job is to let food into the stomach and prevent stomach acid from creeping back up into the esophagus.
In people with GERD, the LES doesn’t know how to relax and constrict at the right times, and when the LES doesn’t work like it should, stomach acid goes where it doesn’t belong.
This leads to uncomfortable symptoms like heartburn, acid reflux, nausea, vomiting, chest pain, hoarse or loss of voice, cough and difficulty swallowing.
The negative effects of GERD can also cause problems further down the digestive tract, contributing to symptoms associated with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).
Most people think that they’re experiencing GERD symptoms because they have too much stomach acid.
But more often than not, GERD is actually caused by too little stomach acid.
This means that all those antacids you’ve been taking are actually making your condition worse, not better!
Even if they relieve the symptoms in the short term, if you have low stomach acid, taking antacids regularly is only going to lead to more symptoms in the long run.
Do You Have Too Much or Too Little?
While your doctor can order expensive lab tests to figure out if you have too much or too little stomach acid, there’s a simple at-home test that will let you know what’s going on in your gut.
What’s the magic bullet? A shot of apple cider vinegar.
Take a shot of apple cider vinegar before every meal for 3-5 days and evaluate how your symptoms change.
Apple cider vinegar is acidic, so if you take a shot of it before meals and your GERD symptoms improve, you know you don’t have enough stomach acid.
If your symptoms worsen, on the other hand, then you’re one of the few people who actually do have too much stomach acid.
How to Prevent and Treat GERD
If you have low stomach acid, talk to your health care provider about taking hydrochloric acid and pepsin supplements. They can help refurbish your stomach with extra juice so you are able to digest better.
But while it’s nice to have this quick fix, the truth behind your GERD may not be such an easy pill to swallow.
If you want to eliminate your symptoms all together, you’re going to have to take a good hard look at your diet.
GERD is usually worse in individuals with food sensitivities, allergies, and intolerances.
Some of the most common triggers of GERD include cow’s milk, wheat, soy, peanuts, and eggs.
Because GERD is correlated with a malfunctioning LES, foods that relax the LES should also be avoided.
These include alcohol, chocolate, coffee, tea, high-fat foods, orange juice, tomato juice, and spicy foods.
Low-carbohydrate diets have also been shown to alleviate GERD symptoms.
Finally, if you’re still smoking cigarettes, here’s another motivation to quit. Tobacco use has been linked to increased GERD symptoms, so your stomach and lungs will both benefit if you throw that pack in the trash.
So now that you know what to avoid, let’s talk about what you should eat.
GERD symptoms are reduced in individuals who include an abundance of dietary fiber in their daily meals.
This means that the more whole vegetables and fruits you have in your diet, the better you’ll feel.
Calcium has also been shown to help strengthen the LES, so eating vegetables that contain a lot of calcium will help relieve your symptoms as well.
Good options include kelp, collard greens, kale, turnip greens, beet greens, potatoes, garlic, arugula, broccoli, mustard greens, spinach, and okra.
If you’re experiencing GERD symptoms, it’s best to avoid large meals.
Overeating increases the pressure on the LES, and your LES already isn’t strong enough, so don’t overwork it.
If you’re overweight or lead a sedentary lifestyle, increasing your activity levels and exercise will benefit you greatly as well.
Another important strategy is to keep stress levels to a minimum.
If you are highly stressed, your Sympathetic Nervous System goes into overdrive and pushes all of your blood into your limbs and out of your organs. If there’s not enough blood in your organs, your LES won’t have the energy to up its game.
Good stress relieving strategies include yoga, qigong, meditation, creative activities, and breathing exercises.
Chinese medicine can also help reduce symptoms of GERD. Visit your local Chinese medicine practitioner for herbal formulas as well as acupuncture to remedy the root cause of the situation.
Do you have a friend or family member who suffers from gastroesophageal reflux disease? Send them this article, it could change the quality of their life!
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease and Diet Plan by Adam Baratta