The occasional case of heartburn is normal, but if you suffer symptoms of acid reflux more than two times a week, you may have chronic acid reflux, which is also called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
GERD can give you a burning discomfort, make you belch, and cause bloating after almost every meal. GERD affects about 20% of the population.
We see many patients with chronic acid reflux here at GastroDoxs. It’s important to control symptoms to prevent long-term damage from the condition. Diet plays a major role in your acid reflux symptoms, and here’s what our gastroenterologist, Dr. Bharat Pothuri, wants you to know.
The esophagus is a tube that allows food to pass to the stomach. At the bottom of the esophagus is a muscular ring called the esophageal sphincter which shuts tightly to prevent regurgitation. Acid reflux occurs when something causes the esophageal sphincter to relax too much, allowing food and stomach acid to come back up.
Certain foods cause the esophageal sphincter to relax. They digest slowly and stay in the stomach longer – so acid is available for extended periods of time. These include fatty, salty, and spicy foods like:
Other foods that contribute to delayed digestion and increased acid production are tomato-based sauces, citrus fruits, chocolate, peppermint, and carbonated beverages.
Foods with fiber make you feel full, so you’re less likely to overeat and cause acid reflux symptoms. These include whole grains like oatmeal and brown rice, root vegetables like sweet potatoes, and green vegetables like broccoli and green beans.
Less acidic foods are good for a chronic acid reflux diet because they’re not as likely to cause reflux. Foods like nuts, cauliflower, bananas, and melon are good choices.
Your diet isn’t just what you consume, but how you go about consuming it. Choose smaller, more frequent meals to satiate you, rather than two or three large meals that leave you feeling stuffed. This makes digestion more efficient so you don’t have a lot of food or stomach acid waiting to reflux up into your esophagus.
When you eat matters too. It’s a good idea to avoid meals or snacks just before bed because lying down encourages your esophageal sphincter to relax. You should also always eat in a seated or standing position and stay upright for at least 45-60 minutes to avoid reflux.
Have your last meal about three hours before bedtime to avoid overnight heartburn. If you do continue to have problems at night, prop the head end of your bed up to discourage reflux. Don’t use extra pillows, rather place wooden blocks under the bedposts.
Dietary changes do help symptoms, but they may continue to persist and irritate. Dr. Pothuri can recommend medications to help reduce your production of stomach acid and, in rare cases, may recommend a surgical procedure to improve your digestion process.
If you’re suffering from chronic acid reflux, reach out to GastroDoxs in Houston, Texas. We will help you make the necessary lifestyle and dietary changes to ease acid reflux as well as help with medical interventions. Call today or book an appointment online.