Lifestyle matters

The GERD Diet aims to alleviate Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease which is a digestive disorder that affects a significant proportion of the population, it occurs when stomach acid and sometimes bile, flows back into the esophagus and mouth. While the exact cause of GERD is unknown, there is some indication it may be related to lifestyle, diet and obesity.

The actual physiological mechanism involved is the lower esophageal sphincter, which is a band of muscles that normally form a protective barrier. GERD occurs when this sphincter does not close properly or weakens. Unlike the occasional bout of heart burn or acid reflux that responds quickly to over the counter medications, GERD is a persistent condition that standard treatments fail to alleviate, often requiring medical intervention.

Stomach juices contain highly corrosive hydrochloric acid, the stomach obviously can handle this acid, the esophagus however cannot, and repeated exposure to the delicate lining of the esophagus causes pain and burning sensations. Potentially this condition can over time be the cause of several other serious complications such as tissue damage, esophageal ulcers and cancer.

A GERD diet, when combined with other healthy lifestyle changes, can often help reduce, relieve or even eliminate many of the painful symptoms and general discomfort, however what works for one person may be ineffective for another. There is no specific diet that addresses every individual’s specific problems, and successful meal plans are often devised with a fair degree of trial and error.

It is suggested that a journal should be kept for one week prior to any dietary changes documenting all foods and drinks consumed in an effort to identify tolerated and trigger foods. And while some foods are known to trigger symptoms no foods have been directly linked to the cause of the disorder. In addition, it might help to record meal times and activities undertaken before and after eating. It may also be beneficial to record any stressful encounters during the day.

Click here for a GERD Diet plan sample.

General dietary recommendations to alleviate the symptoms of GERD include:

  • decreasing the overall intake of fats, particularly fried foods
  • eating smaller more regular meals high in protein
  • avoiding known triggers such as citrus, chocolate, coffee, alcohol, carbonated beverages, spicy foods, onions and tomato based products.
  • it is also suggested that if overweight, a calorie restricted diet be implemented to encourage weight loss.

Certain foods may also be added to the diet in an attempt to relieve some discomfort, probiotic yoghurt is believed to aid digestion and prevent bloating, while the benefits of a diet high in fibre include a lower occurrence of symptoms. Some other foods known for their anti-inflammatory and soothing properties include; ginger, leafy greens, asparagus, fish, fennel, honey, aloe vera, brown rice, quinoa, parsley and oatmeal. 

A modified diet tailored for each individual, combined with regular exercise, weight control and some adjustments to specific eating habits such as posture can significantly assist in the treatment of GERD. It is however essential to seek medical attention if you believe you are suffering any symptoms of, in some cases surgery is necessary to rectify the problem.

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