Lifestyle Modification for Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
The current guideline for GERD patients do not prohibit any specific food consumption; it only suggests that patient avoid foods that triggers the symptoms based on personal observation and experience
Symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) are related to certain foods and behaviors. However, the current guideline for GERD patients do not prohibit any specific food consumption; it only suggests that patient avoid foods that triggers the symptoms based on personal observation and experience.
Certain types of foods may weaken the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) at the junction between the stomach and the esophagus, to the extent that it fails to prevent the stomach acid from backing up into the esophagus. Some foods may be more difficult to digest, staying longer in the stomach and causing acid reflux after meal. These usually belongs to the “sour, spicy, salty, and fatty” food groups. According to self-reporting of GERD patients, reflux-induced foods are fried foods, extra spicy foods, deep-fried foods sprinkled with chili powder, foods containing peppermint, high fat foods such as sausages, bacon, cheese, coconut milk, pizza, fast foods, chocolate, along with sour tasting fruits, tomatoes, garlic, and onions. Foods that generate gas in the stomach such as carbonated beverages can also be trigger of symptom.
According to some studies, drinking 6 servings of tea or coffee per day can aggravate GERD symptoms (1 serving is equivalent to 1 tablespoon of coffee mixed with 180 milliliters of water.). The proper consumption of 2 servings per day would not stimulate reflux. However, if symptoms persist even at this amount, it is recommended to temporarily cut down or stop drinking coffee until symptoms resolve.
Foods that can ease reflux include bananas, grains, and high-fiber vegetables. These foods help improve the bowel movement in some GERD patients whose symptoms are related to constipation. When the bowel movement is improved, GERD symptoms would decrease. Patients with GERD should refrain from eating 2-3 hours before bedtime to prevent nighttime reflux.
Smoking and alcohol should be avoided because they can worsen the symptoms. Reflux symptoms in GERD patients who are overweight (BMI greater than 25 kg/m2) evidently improve after weight loss. Abdominal obesity increases the pressure in the abdomen, easily propelling stomach contents and acid right back up into the esophagus.
Those who suffer nighttime reflux should sleep with their head raised up by 6-8 inches or 15-20 centimeters. Try to sleep on your left side and avoid sleeping with your right side down.
Dr Sureeporn Jangsirikul
Gastroenterologist & Hepatologist