As you get older, it’s common to reflect on what you had for dinner in terms of the amount of abdominal discomfort that you’ll experience into the evening and the following morning. GERD is the severe form of the more well-known heartburn feeling is commonly the first thought.
GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease, is a chronic digestive disorder in which stomach acid flows back up into the esophagus. This can contribute to the feeling of heartburn or acid indigestion that affects us after eating many of our favorite foods.
However, there are dietary changes that can be made to alleviate or completely avoid this feeling.
- Slow down when eating! It’s easy to rush through meals. Eat slowly, chew your foods well and try small frequent meals. Overfilling your stomach will increase your risk of GERD.
- More beans, oatmeal, and pasta (but hold the sauce!) Adding more foods to your diet that are low-fat and high in protein and fiber can soothe your stomach and avoid some of the gastroesophageal pressure that plays a large role in acid reflux.
- No coffee or caffeinated beverages? Highly caffeinated drinks like coffee, tea and carbonated beverages like sodas and energy drinks can trigger heartburn. A trial of limiting or eliminating these may reduce your symptoms. Try cutting back to 1 cup per day.
- Less highly-acidic foods like tomato-based dishes, citrus fruits and juices – High acid levels in these foods can contribute to heartburn, especially when eaten on an empty stomach.
- Hold the spicy foods – Foods containing high amounts of pepper or spices can lessen the effectiveness of the stomach in keeping the contents and give a higher chance of reflux into the esophagus. Next time, try a simpler version of the recipe without the spices!
- Avoid late evening snacks- Avoid eating within 2-3 hours before bedtime to reduce your risk of GERD. Sit upright or take a walk after eating.
Combating acid reflux and heartburn may not mean you have to sacrifice the foods and drinks you love. Paying close attention to the speed at which you eat, what you eat, and portion sizes can go a long way in avoiding the painful feeling afterwards.
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The types of foods that can trigger GERD symptoms can vary from person to person. If you have questions about what is most appropriate for you, seek dietary advice from your doctor or registered dietitian.
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About Digestive Disorders
The UPMC Digestive Disorders Center cares for a wide range of gastrointestinal conditions and diseases, from diagnosis to treatment. Upon referral from your physician, we coordinate your testing and treatment. If you have a complicated condition, we can refer you to one of UPMC’s digestive health centers of excellence. Most of our office visits and outpatient procedures take place at UPMC Presbyterian or UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital in Oakland. We also provide inpatient care at UPMC Montefiore or UPMC Presbyterian in Oakland.