Acid reflux explained
Acid reflux is a common condition affecting millions of Americans. It is when there is a backflow of acid from the stomach into the feeding tube or esophagus. A reason why the condition occurs is if the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) is weakened. Usually, the LES maintains tone to prevent the movement of fluid up the esophagus. It only tends to open to allow food through during digestion but if it is compromised you may have acid reflux. Other contributing factors are delayed emptying of the stomach and increased acid production by the stomach. All of these factors may be affected by how much, what food you eat and how you move after eating.
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Foods to relieve reflux symptoms
When acid reaches the esophagus it can cause irritation and pain with the most common symptom of heartburn. While the following foods will not cure your condition they may help avoid that uncomfortable burning feeling in your chest and any other symptoms:
- Vegetables – Veggies are low in sugars and fats so less stomach acid needs to be produced to digest them. You have a range of options from broccoli, cauliflower and asparagus to potatoes, cucumbers and beans.
- Ginger – Ginger helps to soothe the stomach as it has anti-inflammatory properties. This makes it useful for other gastrointestinal issues as well.
- High fiber foods- These include oats and whole-grain foods like wholegrain bread and rice.
- Fruits excluding citrus fruits – Bananas, pears and apples are better options than acidic fruits which will aggravate reflux.
- Lean meat, seafood and egg whites – Try to avoid fatty cuts of meat and egg yolk. Grilling, boiling or baking to cook food is another sensible idea instead of frying.
- Unsaturated fats – Foods lower in saturated fats and higher in unsaturated fats are healthier with regards to cholesterol as well as acid reflux.
Foods to avoid with regards to reflux
Eliminate problematic foods from your diet to beat reflux. These foods may be variable between individuals with regards to which trigger acid reflux and the extent of reflux that they cause:
- High-fat foods – Fast foods, full-fat dairy foods and fatty cuts of meat, for example, cause LES relaxation and delayed stomach emptying.
- Tomatoes and citrus fruits – Unsurprisingly acidic foods aggravate reflux so try to eat these in moderation.
- Spicy or tangy foods – Foods such as garlic, onions or chilies can cause acid reflux in some people so watch out.
- Mint – mint and foods with mint flavoring like gum and breath mints can be problematic.
- Chocolate – Chocolate has both caffeine and methylxanthine, chemicals that lessen LES tone and thereby increases reflux.
- Changing your eating habits and habits surrounding eating
- Eat less more frequently – Avoid big meals as this will trigger lots of gastric acid production and potentially cause reflux.
- Avoid chronic overeating – Obesity is a major risk factor for acid reflux. Abdominal fat puts pressure on the belly.
- Try to stay upright after eating, only lie down a few hours later – This way gravity will aid you and you will make it less likely for stomach fluid to backflow. Avoiding eating food a few hours before bed will also help.
- Switch foods for suitable alternatives – use decaf or mint free versions of your usual products.
- Avoid wearing tight clothes around the time you eat – This can put pressure on your belly and aggravate reflux.
- Avoid strenuous exercise after eating – Bending over can cause reflux. Exercise diverts blood flow away from the digestive system making control over the LES less optimal.
Paying attention to what you eat, how much you eat and what you do soon after eating will have a positive impact on your health and help you to avoid acid reflux. To find out your specific triggers you can try to make a food diary taking into account what you ate, when you ate it and how you felt afterward. Consult your doctor if your reflux is getting in the way of your life, you need to take antacids on a daily basis or you have reflux more than two times every week.