Acid reflux produces heartburn far more intense than what someone would experience with an ordinary upset stomach. Although this condition is difficult to live with, people have a variety of treatment options that would lessen occurrences and intensity, but also help prevent future problems. In addition to conventional medical treatments and home remedies, lifestyle changes would also prove beneficial, especially an acid reflux diet.
Before getting into details about foods and benefits associated with this diet plan, we felt it would be helpful to provide a brief overview of the condition, causes, and symptoms. After all, the more educated a person becomes in relation to a specific health issue the easier it is to take necessary steps for recovery and prevention.
Reflux Acid Overview
Officially known as Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease or GERD, this medical condition occurs when the esophagus becomes inflamed and irritated from a backup of acid produced within the stomach. As food is swallowed, it travels through the esophagus until reaching the stomach where a production of hydrochloric acid breaks it down and helps with the digestive process. Although hydrochloric acid is highly corrosive, cells within the stomach naturally produce thick mucus that protects the lining but because the esophageal lining does not have this same protection, acid causes significant damage.
The esophagus is located directly behind the heart so when trying to describe the burning sensation associated with this food pipe, the term “heartburn” was created. In normal circumstances, a ring comprised of muscle located on the bottom portion of the esophagus prevents stomach acid from backing up. This muscle known as the “lower esophageal sphincter” makes it possible to swallow by relaxing but also prevents stomach acid from coming up by tightening.
For people with GERD, the sphincter relaxes between swallowing rather than tightening, allowing both food in the stomach and hydrochloric acid to travel upwards. With this, a burning sensation is produced and the esophageal lining damaged. According to the latest statistics, approximately 33% of adults in the United States have acid reflux although the condition can also affect children. Of adults with this condition, about 10% experience food and acid backup on a daily or weekly basis.
Reasons for GERD
Reasons for developing GERD remain somewhat of a mystery but with years of research, medical experts have discovered certain things that cause the sphincter to relax or actually weaken. Some of the primary contributors include the following:
- Medication – Certain medications such as antihistamines, calcium channel blockers, nitrates, and theophylines such as Quibron, Tedral, Bronchial, Hydrophed, and Marax cause acid reflux
- Lifestyle – People who smoke, consume alcohol, have poor posture, and are obese would have an increased risk for GERD
- Medical Condition – A number of medical conditions could also cause reflux to include fast weight gain, hiatal hernia, diabetes, and pregnancy
- Diet – Some of the biggest culprits for GERD include high acid foods such as citrus and tomatoes, as well as mint or mint flavorings, spicy foods, fried foods, foods containing high levels of fat, caffeinated beverages, garlic, onions, and chocolate
What to Look For
Symptoms of GERD are what usually prompt people to see a doctor and ultimately, start this diet. Of course, exact symptoms, as well as severity would vary from one person to another but overall, someone with GERD would expect to experience one or more of the symptoms listed below.
- Persistent heartburn that turns into pain lasting longer than two hours.
- Intensified heartburn after eating, bending over, or lying down.
- No change in heartburn or pain with physical activity.
- Regurgitation of stomach acid.
- Chronic dry cough, wheezing, morning hoarseness, and a tightening of the throat.
Taking Action with Diet
Although a doctor would determine the best treatment option, most medical experts agree that one of the first things to change would be foods consumed. Therefore, adopting an acid reflux diet would get people started in the right direction to recovery. Most people are surprised to learn about foods that should and should not be consumed, oftentimes discovering what they thought were good choices to be bad and bad choices to be good.
Rather than take chances, we wanted to eliminate any guesswork by providing helpful information about the types of food that would be most beneficial, as well as appropriate actions. With facts, people can shop for the right foods and enjoy a significant improvement for acid reflux.
Proper GERD Foods and Actions
An acid reflux diet is not a structured meal plan as seen with other diet plans but a guideline for the types of foods consumed and actions performed. When followed, people with GERD notice a marked improvement and in some cases, problems of acid reflux disappear altogether.
- Rather than eat three large meals a day, following this plan would involve eating six, small meals. To prevent a high production of hydrochloric acid, it would be vital to avoid overloading the stomach with food.
- Although people with GERD can drink milk, it should never be with a large evening meal. With this, the amount of acid produced in the stomach would be high, resulting in a reflux of acid during the middle of the night.
- For years, it was believed that people with GERD needed to avoid spicy foods, citrus, and coffee but a study conducted in 2006 proved that when consumed occasionally and in small amounts, these foods are perfectly fine.
- All six meals should include high complex carbohydrates such as pasta, rice, and breads that soak up excess stomach acid.
- Foods high in fat and deep fried foods should be avoided for this diet since fat remains in the stomach longer than other substances. As a result, the stomach produces more hydrochloric acid to aid in the digestive process.
- Alcohol should be avoided if possible but for people who enjoy a drink, the amount should be limited since both wine and beer prompt the stomach to produce acid, especially beer.