A fire in your belly: How to extinguish GERD

Holiday_GERD
By Nicole Hahn, Registered Dietician, Banner–University Medical Center Phoenix

‘Tis the season for peppermint lattes, libations and merriment, and treats around every corner. For many people, the holiday season and all the goodies that come along with the holidays is the best time of year. For others, the holidays and those goodies bring on GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease) symptoms. Every person is different, so what may trigger symptoms in one person, may not trigger them in others. 

Here are some common foods or compounds that trigger GERD.

Peppermint

Peppermint may cause GERD from two different actions:

  1. It relaxes the gastroesophageal sphincter, the muscle that closes the opening between your esophagus and your stomach.
  2. It irritates the lining of the stomach.

Chocolate

Compounds in chocolate, like serotonin, relax the sphincter muscle.

Alcohol

Alcohol can have short-term and long-term effects.

  • In the short-term, it can increase stomach acid production and reduce the pressure on the esophageal sphincter, allowing acid to travel back up the esophagus.
  • In the long-term, it damages the lining of the esophagus and stomach.

Caffeinated beverages

Some research studying caffeine by itself did not produce symptoms of GERD, but other compounds in these beverages, or perhaps the combination of the compounds and caffeine, was shown to increase cholecystokinin and pressure on the esophageal sphincter to allow it to open when it should be closed – thus causing GERD.

Pepper or other spicy spices

Certain spices may irritate the stomach and slow down digestion.

High-fat foods

Foods high in fat can slow the emptying of the stomach and create distention, which in turn, will allow acid to creep back up into the esophagus

  • High fat food examples include whole milk, cream, fried meats, cured meats, doughnuts, fried veggies, pastries, etc.

Fruits and vegetables

Citrus, tomatoes and any fruits or veggies with fermentable fiber are the big culprits, but everyone may respond differently to each. Citrus or high-acid fruits and veggies increase acid in the stomach. Fermentable fiber increases gas production and the likelihood of belching, which increases the odds of GERD.

GERD Relief

Foods that may help relieve GERD symptoms include: 

  • Ginger
  • Bananas
  • Melons
  • Green veggies
  • Oatmeal
  • Grains
  • Potatoes

Also, using hard candies or lozenges to promote saliva production can help neutralize some of the stomach acid, and antacids provide some on-demand relief as well.  

You may find eliminating some trigger foods is also helpful, but you may have to remove some favorite foods.

Other than medications, the best treatment for GERD is to keep the head of the bed elevated when sleeping, do not go to sleep right after eating and lose weight if you are overweight.

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