Have you ever experienced discomfort or an unpleasant taste in the mouth after eating? Or have you once felt that your stomach acid is coming back up into your mouth? Well this medical condition is called Gastro- Esophageal Reflux Disease (GERD). It is whenever you experience heartburn (pain in the chest) or sometimes acid regurgitation. Other atypical symptoms may include bloating, bloody stools or bloody vomiting, burping, nausea, weight loss, stomach pain, wheezing, dry cough, dental erosions, hoarseness, chronic sore throat or many others.

In normal conditions, the lower esophageal sphincter, a muscle found between the stomach and the esophagus, acts like a valve that opens to let the food enter the stomach and then closes to prevent the leakage of the gastric content upwards. Reflux disease is caused when this sphincter doesn’t close properly, thus there will be an abnormal reflux of stomach acid into the esophagus or beyond, probably into the oral cavity or lungs.
The following are common risk factors that relax or weaken the lower esophageal sphincter:

  • Medical conditions: Obesity, pregnancy, hiatal hernia, asthma, diabetes, connective tissue disorders, etc..
  • Lifestyle: Smoking, lying down after eating, tight cloth, stress, recent weight gain, eating rapidly, consuming large meals, few medications, etc..
  • Dietary choices: High fat foods, citrus fruits, spices, chocolate, caffeinated beverages, etc..

If you are frequently experiencing reflux, you definitely need to consult your doctor; otherwise you would be increasing the risk of many serious complications such as esophageal cancer. Your doctor might prescribe few drugs to temporarily treat the symptoms and decrease the acid secretion in your stomach. However you need to focus on few ways to manage the disease enduringly. Here are few tips that were scientifically proven to help cope with GERD:

  • Weight loss is recommended for GERD patients who are overweight or have had recent weight gain
  • Head of bed elevation
  • Avoidance of meals two to three hours before bedtime
  • Tobacco cessation
  • If you wish to have a nap after lunch, do so in a chair
  • Prevent wearing tight clothes or tight belts
  • Ask your doctors about the medications you are taking; they might be causing GERD

As for the foods, none of the studies conducted to date have shown clinical improvement in GERD symptoms associated with cessation of foods that aggravate reflux such as coffee, caffeine, chocolate, spicy foods, citrus (such as tomato and orange), carbonated beverages, fatty foods, or mint. Researchers have also concluded that there was lack of evidence that consumption of carbonated beverages causes or provokes GERD.

Therefore, routine global elimination of food that can trigger reflux is not recommended in the treatment. Selective elimination could be useful if patients note association with GERD symptoms and improvement following exclusion.