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Reflux: What do you want to know?


Esophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

Do you suffer from constant indigestion or experience symptoms such as heartburn? When this occurs frequently it may be more known as gastro esophageal reflux disease (GERD). You are not alone. It is a growing problem and affects nearly 20% of Americans.

GERD is a digestive disorder in which stomach acids, food and fluids flow back into the esophagus. It varies from person to person and may occur at any age. The most common symptom of GERD is known as heartburn but not everyone experiences this.

New Research on GERD

For years, gastroenterologists thought that GERD develops when the frequent backflow of stomach acid irritates and eventually causes damage and erosion to the lining of the inside of the esophagus. However, a recent study published in the Journal of American Medical Association showed that GERD may actually be a response to inflammation in the lining of the esophagus, rather than to the acid erosion. In the article, they looked at people who were prescribed proton pump inhibitor (PPI) medication, and saw that when the patients’ stopped the medication, their acid production increased and their symptoms returned. The researchers examined the changes that occurred and saw an increase in T-cells in all of the subjects, but not loss of surface cells, which was expected from chemical damage. Therefore, while scientists still recommend medications and dietary changes to reduce acid production and backup into the esophagus, it may also be important to recommend diet and lifestyle changes that help to reduce inflammation in those with GERD.

Since everyone experiences different symptoms, what works for some, may not work for others. There are a variety of diet and lifestyle changes worth exploring to see if they reduce the symptoms of GERD. Below are a few lists that identify some of the factors that contribute to or worsen GERD symptoms, foods that may be associated with reflux, and some lifestyle changes that may help to manage GERD.

Contributing Factors:

  • Alcohol use

  • Medications that delay emptying of the stomach or that increase the backup of acid into the esophagus

  • Overweight

  • Pregnancy

  • Smoking

Foods that might cause a problem:

  • Peppermint and spearmint

  • Chocolate

  • Alcohol

  • Caffeinated beverages, such as tea, coffee, pop, energy drink, etc.

  • Pepper

  • High-fat foods (butter, desserts, fried foods, oil)

  • Citrus fruit (grapefruit, lemons, limes, oranges)