It’s mid-afternoon and you feel that familiar burning sensation in your chest. You thought the 2pm coffee pick-me-up wouldn’t bother you, but it’s hurting you now. After you eat, if you have frequent heartburn with chest pain, the feeling of something in your throat, or if your food sometimes comes back into your throat, you may have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
The good news is GERD is a condition that can improve significantly with changes in diet and lifestyle. That part is up to you. You can do a lot to control GERD and avoid painful flare-ups.
The following are dietary tips from Dr. Michael Sutker, at our offices in Dallas and McKinney, Texas, to help you avoid GERD’s painful symptoms. While there is no formal GERD diet, establishing healthy eating habits can go a long way toward preventing a GERD attack.
Avoid GERD triggers
The following foods can be GERD triggers:
- Fatty foods
- Fried foods
- Spicy foods
- Onions or garlic
- Carbonated drinks
- Citrus and tomatoes/tomato sauces
You may see several of your favorite foods on the list. Are all of them triggers? You may want to keep a diet diary for a couple of weeks to help unmask the food and drinks that bring on your GERD symptoms. You may find that some items on the list cause you a lot of trouble, while others hardly bother you at all.
Create new habits to replace your triggers
For those foods and beverages that cause the most discomfort, try making substitutions. If afternoon coffee brings on discomfort, try a zero-calorie beverage, flavored water, or a smoothie. If you love chocolate, try chewing flavored gum (other than peppermint). Gum lessens acid in your esophagus. Try sticking with the substitutions for two weeks to help them become new habits.
Eat healthy foods
Part of avoiding GERD attacks is simply eating healthy foods instead of highly processed or fatty foods. The following are foods that should be on your grocery list:
Fruits and veggies
While you may need to avoid citrus, tomatoes, or onions, there are other delicious fruits and vegetables you can enjoy, such as melons, bananas, pears, apples and squash.
Try grilled, poached, broiled, or baked poultry, fish, and lean meat, and avoid fried options. If eggs don’t bother you, add them to your salads or main dishes. If you find that they do produce symptoms, try scrambled egg whites.
High fiber foods
Whole grains and brown rice are loaded with fiber. Oatmeal with berries is another good choice. Some research indicates that a high-fiber diet may help relieve GERD symptoms. Besides, getting plenty of fiber can help keep you regular, help lower your risk for certain cancers, and help keep your blood sugar levels normal.
Mono and polyunsaturated fats in moderation
Try reducing the amount of saturated fats you consume from meat and dairy. Examine food labels to try to avoid trans fats, which are abundant in processed foods.
Some fats are healthier for you. Olive oil is a great monounsaturated fat. Try cooking with it and using it as a base for salad dressing. Avocados, nuts, and seeds are other “good fat” sources. Try eating fish, such as salmon or trout, once or twice a week. They contain healthy polyunsaturated fats. Buy a bag of flaxseed and sprinkle a tablespoon into your oatmeal along with the berries.
Modify eating patterns
Eating a lot of food at one time may put too much pressure on the valve connecting your stomach to your esophagus, allowing it to open. When that happens, some of the food may come back into your esophagus. Try eating four or five small plates instead of two or three large meals.
Be sure to eat more than three hours before going to bed. Reclining too soon after you eat makes it easy for stomach acid to travel upward.
If you’re overweight, try to get back to a normal weight. Too much weight can change the position of your esophageal valve and may result in reflux.
If you have GERD or other gastrointestinal conditions, call our office or request an appointment through our website.