How you can improve GERD symptoms: GUIDELINES

by Margaret Stoklosa

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) 

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) can manifest as a burning sensation in the throat, a sour taste with regurgitation, nausea, stomach pain, vomiting or chronic cough. GERD typically occurs due to lower esophageal sphincter tone issues, delayed gastric emptying, decreased salivation, and/ or a hiatal hernia. While the rescue remedy is to suppress the acid that keeps rising, the long-term approach should be to evaluate the root cause due to the importance of adequate stomach acid for digestion, iron and B12 absorption, and bacterial protection. Long-term suppression of stomach acid can lead to small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) as well as inflammatory bowel disease. 

Nutritional Suggestions 

  1. Chew well – at least 30 times per bite to ensure that your body has enough time to stimulate the necessary digestive support. 
  1. Take time to eat your meals in a focused, calm environment – slowing down to eat gives the body enough time to indicate when stomach contents are full; being present during the meal allows for a focus on the mechanical part of breaking down food. 
  1. Avoid consuming liquids with meals – increasing the volume of intake with food and liquid increases the pressure on the lower esophageal sphincter (the connector between the esophagus and the stomach). 
  1. Avoid large meals – increasing the volume of intake increases the pressure on the lower esophageal sphincter causing regurgitation of stomach contents; smaller meals are better. 
  1. Avoid eating after 8pm and too close to bedtime – the body is primed to wind down in the evening and not to rev up with digestion.  Eating too close to bedtime, especially heavy meals, can induce GERD symptoms. 
  1. Some foods can be irritating: 
  • Foods that increase acid secretion: alcohol and coffee. 
  • Foods that negatively affect the lower esophageal sphincter: alcohol, coffee, chocolate, fatty meals, peppermint, carbonated beverages. 
  • Foods that can trigger pain: tomato products, citrus, soda, spicy foods, alcohol. 
  1. Consume adequate fiber – soluble fiber especially helps to increase the tightness of the lower esophageal sphincter. 
  1. Decrease sugar intake as it contributes to GERD episodes. 
  1. Consider a gluten and/ or dairy-free dietary pattern, as these patterns have been found to decrease GERD symptoms. 

Lifestyle Suggestions 

  1. Incorporate exercise, especially if overweight, as those with higher BMIs experience higher GERD incidence.  
  1. Avoid smoking or being around those who smoke due to decreased lower esophageal tone and decreased salivation. 
  1. Consider elevating your bed at least 6-8 inches – this can be done using solid materials positioned under the headboard or using a mattress with elevation capacity. 
  1. Wear loose fitting clothing to avoid constricting the stomach and lower esophageal sphincter. 

Other things to consider 

  1. Supplement with melatonin (3mg) nightly for a period of four weeks, as this was shown to improve GERD symptoms and help with lower esophageal sphincter tone. 
  1. Reduce stress to help reduce GERD symptoms due to lower internal oxidative stress and sympathetic response (which slows gastric emptying). 
  1. Incorporate other therapies like acupuncture, massage, relaxation via breathing, meditation, yoga, or Qigong. 

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