Foods to avoid if you have acid reflux aka Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, commonly referred to as GERD
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In my previous article, we looked at medication which could be taken to treat acid reflux. In this one, we'll look at the dietary and other considerations to prevent it recurring.
It seems that one of the major culprits causing acid reflux is alcohol. Not good news for the drinkers amongst us. Take heart though, it is probably only excessive drinking that's to blame - perceived wisdom is that a couple of glasses of wine with your dinner won't hurt you, although there is some argument as to whether red or white is better. Personally, I find white wine more acidic and therefore assumed that it would be more likely to cause acid reflux.
Alcohol is not the only culprit - chocolate, peppermint, coffee, tea, caffeinated soft drinks such as colas and citrus fruit juices also inhibit the normal workings of the oesophageal sphincter so keep intake of these to an absolute minimum, if you can't give them up completely.
Chewing gum and eating hard sweets cause excessive air to be swallowed, thus causing wind and reflux.
Fatty and fried foods also delay the emptying of the stomach so steer clear of any fatty meat, particularly those found on the delicatessen counter, such as salamis, sausages and patés. "Fatty" includes full fat milk and other dairy products (cheese, cream, butter, margarine). Tomatoes can aggravate the condition in some people, as can spices such as chillies (powdered, fresh or dried) and any derivatives like Tabasco. Condiments such as Worcestershire and soy sauces and any sort of horseradish or mustard should also be taken with care.
Now for the good news - you can eat, with some freedom, vegetables (not tomatoes), chicken and turkey (without skin), fish, apples, peaches, melons, pears and berries. You can eat, in moderation, skimmed or semi-skimmed milk, low fat spreads and cottage cheese. Oh, and you can drink water until you float!
A few other things you can do to avoid or alleviate acid reflux are:
Ultimately, everyone is different and foods that some people can tolerate cause incredibly painful indigestion for others. Only you can tell, so be sensible and avoid those foods that have an adverse effect.
Your Independent guide to Acid Reflux
As always, before you attempt to self medicate or try a new health regimen or program we suggest you retain the services of a qualified health care professional.
Acid Reflux Disease, Causes and Effects
To counter the surge in the prevalence of acid reflux, lots of over the counter medications have been churned out of our pharmaceutical companies. A lot of theories abound, medically and naturally, about the root cause of this disease. The first explanation for the cause of this condition is that because of the incompetence of the Lower Esophageal Sphincter (LES) acidic contents of the stomach are allowed up into the esophagus, which results in a burning sensation. The LES is a valve that is found at the lower end of the esophagus and separates it from the stomach and its contents but when this valve becomes dysfunctional, it allows the acidic content of the stomach to be regurgitated into the esophagus.
So, when we put so much into the stomach, most of the food ends up undigested.
A separate school of thought believes that acidic reflux disease is caused by our eating habits. As it's often said, living in the civilized world entails eating more junk food and packaged and processed food than the stomach can digest. These undigested food materials turn into acidic waste in the stomach. This waste causes stomach spasms or twitching that causes an increase in stomach gas that pops open the LES valve between the esophagus and stomach sending acidic contents up the esophagus.
Yet, acidic reflux disease can be traced to aging in adults. It is believed in some quarters that as we age, the activity of the stomach reduces, so also its ability to produce hydrochloric acid. The reduction in the stomach activity and acid content of the stomach creates a breeding ground for infections which in themselves cause stomach pain and acid production leading to further symptoms of acid reflux.
Whatever the cause of acid reflux disease, what is constant about it, is the fact that it is a chronic disease. Most medicines, which inhibit production of acid in the stomach, only help to relieve the burning effect and other symptoms and not actually cure the condition. As a matter of fact, these drugs help in relieving the symptoms quite effectively, but the other side of the coin is that these drugs also cause several side effects in the body by cutting down the acid production in your stomach. Some of their side effects are that they reduce the ability of the stomach to digest food efficiently, they make you more vulnerable to diseases and microbes transmitted through food, increases the risk of food poisoning and a host of others.
While there are many medications and natural methods to rid yourself of that burning sensation that accompanies each acid reflux bout, the first line of action should be a thorough assessment of the your food and lifestyle. Some food materials are known to aggravate acid reflux, some of the foods include; citrus, caffeine, chocolate, fatty fried foods, garlic, and onions. Cutting down or avoiding these foods as much as possible is a good first attempt at preventing future acid reflux bouts.
Additional lifestyle assessment and modification that can help reduce acid reflux episodes include:
- Losing weight if you are overweight
- Cutting down alcohol to the barest minimum
- Eating just enough food to keep hunger away
- Don't go to bed until at least three hours after eating - Raise your bed head six to eight inches
These very simple lifestyle improvements can keep you off those acid blockers and other acid reflux medications that cause almost the same amount of damage as the good they do to your body.
Your Independent guide to Acid Reflux
Acid Reflux Disease in Infants
Some medical conditions have no respect for age; the young or the old, and Acid Reflux, also known in medical terms as Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) seems to be one of them. The lower end of the esophagus is protected by a valve called the Lower Esophageal sphincter (LES). This valve opens to allow food from the esophagus into the stomach and then closes up to protect the esophagus from the acid content of the stomach. Several conditions can compromise this valve, allowing gastric content into the esophagus. As in adults, infants also suffer from heartburn on occasions. This is mainly attributed to the fact that infants consume essentially liquid and soft foods, which tend to be rich in diary proteins. The most unfortunate part of infant acid reflux disease is that, unlike in adults, it is very difficult to determine if an infant has developed chronic gastroesophageal reflux disease. An infant is most unlikely to be able to complain of heartburn or any symptoms of the disease.
The tendency for liquid food to cause regurgitation, when combined with the pressure lying in a supine position exerts on the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) constitutes a greater risk of reflux acid incidence in infants. The incidence, however, could also be attributed to some other factors like, the anatomy of the infant's stomach, improper or incomplete development of the lower esophageal sphincter during fetal growth, poor diet, overweight, food allergies and a host of other factors.
Because infants, unlike adults, cannot complain of symptoms or explain how they feel, it is always very difficult to know when an infant is suffering from acid reflux. The best bet is to consult a pediatrician. Nevertheless, there are signs and clues that you may look out for in your infant that could suggest the presence of the disease. Some of these clues are:
- Sleeping problems
- Weight loss
- Lack of appetite
- Spitting up frequently
- Unusual irritability
- Chest pain
- Sore throat
- Bad breath
Acid reflux disease can also cause respiratory problems including pneumonia, strictures and ulcerations on the esophageal wall, and malnourishment. Although, these signs don't always mean your infant is suffering from acid reflux disease, but they constitute a good enough reason to go see your pediatrician.
Of course, there are a few things you could do to help your child avoid acid reflux. Simple things like changing the child's food, keeping him/her upright for some time, especially after eating, keeping a eye on the child for any sign of chest pain or heartburn and a host of others. This extra attention could be all your child really needs.
How do you treat acid reflux disease so that the pain and damage are at a minimum? Trust me, I know how painful and inconvenient acid reflux disease can be. The burning and the fear that precedes every meal with any amount of flavor to it can be a real problem. It is frustrating and painful, and I know that I suffered often because of it. However, there are treatments available that can help you if you give them a chance.
The first thing you need to do is realize that you are not alone. Acid reflux disease actually affects about 60 million people. It is considered to be serious only if it occurring over two times a week over a span of a few months. If it is untreated and continues over a long period of time it can actually cause permanent damage to your esophagus.
Acid reflux disease is the result of acid from your stomach coming up into your esophagus over and over again. It happens when the sphincter muscle between your esophagus and stomach becomes weak and relaxed which will then allow the acid back up. This can actually be caused by high fat foods. They have been shown to weaken the muscle on a temporary basis. So your first move might be to cut back on high fat foods.
Another simple treatment for acid reflux disease is the repositioning of your bed. Some people have been able to get relief from this condition by raising the head of their bed. You can put four to six inch blocks or raisers under the bead bedposts of your bed. This positioning keeps the acid down out of the esophagus through gravity, but is not always a solution for every case of acid reflux disease.
A third treatment that is very common for acid reflux disease is the use of antacids. Generally a good antacid will work on a short term basis or if you only suffer a few times a year, but reducing the acid in your stomach long term can cause other diseases. Keep that in mind when you reach for your antacid if you are doing so too often.
When it comes to treating your acid reflux disease, consider some lifestyle changes. First thing, quit smoking if you are a smoker and either cut down or stop drinking. You should also eat more fiber and eat smaller meals so that your stomach does not become too full. In addition, try to eat more complex carbohydrates and fewer fatty and friend foods. You may also want to consider natural herbs like ginger to treat your symptoms in a more healthy manner.
Acid reflux disease can be a very difficult, annoying, and painful problem. When you suffer the symptoms of it, you want relief and you want it now. However, take the time to consider some things you can do to prevent yourself from being in that situation in the first place. Adjust your lifestyle, diet, and exercise regimen to decrease the frequency of the problem. Also, you can use natural herbs to treat the symptoms and, on occasion only, use an antacid. Acid reflux disease is no fun, so think about what you can do to change your life and stop suffering, you will be glad you did.
Acid Reflux - Treating It With Medication
Of course, as with any medical condition, there are numerous ways of treating acid reflux, or to give it its full title, gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Here, we will look at medication.
Antacids and Alignates
Antacids are generally available without a doctor's prescription and relieve the symptoms of acid indigestion and heartburn (dyspepsia).
The usual ingredients of antacids are magnesium or aluminium and they work by neutralising the acid produced in the stomach which is the cause of indigestion and acid reflux. This group often contain sodium alginate which forms a protective coating over the lining of the gullet and the stomach.
Proton Pump Inhibitors
Proton pump Inhibitors are drugs which shut down the system in the stomach called the proton pump. It is this system which produces acid in the stomach, the leaking of which into the oesophagus causes acid reflux.
These drugs are taken in the form of tablets or capsules, as a powder to be diluted in water or as injections and are used to treat stomach ulcers and a rather rare condition called Zollinger-Ellison syndrome as well as acid reflux.
Omeprazole and Lansoprazole are well known varieties of this particular type of drug although there are several others.
Side effects are rare although they can include diarrhoea or constipation, stomach pains, wind, drowsiness, dizziness and headaches. In unusual cases, a severe allergic reaction can result. My personal experience with Omeprazole was seriously raised blood pressure and severe head pain. However, replacing Omeprazole with Ranitidine and taking blood pressure reduction medication for a couple of weeks sorted out that problem.
This group of drugs works by attaching to and blocking the H2 receptor area on stomach cells which, when stimulated by the naturally produced chemical, histamine, generates acid.
Ranitidine is the best known of this drug group, others being Nizatidine, Famotidine and Cimetidine.
Side effects are few but can display as diarrhoea, headaches, dizziness and tiredness. Loss of hair has been reported by takers of Cimetidine and with nizatidine, sweating.
Both proton pump inhibitors and H2 receptor antagonists are used together with antibiotics to get rid of Helicobacter pylori infection which can cause stomach ulcers and duodenitis.
If symptoms of heartburn persist, consult your doctor. They could be indicative of something much more serious than indigestion. Never embark on a course of medication without consulting a doctor. Never take medicines prescribed for somebody else.
Your Independent guide to Acid Reflux
Natural stomach acid is in your stomach for a reason. The actual acid is not the cause of acid reflux disease. It is not a nasty poison that someone put there. The acid breaks down foods and sorts them out into the right department so to speak. Proper digestion depends on the presence of adequate stomach acid while you are eating.
Notwithstanding that, when drinking alcohol, limit quantities and dilute spirits with water or a mixer. Wine may also be diluted with water or lemonade. Gassy drinks like champagne and beer should be avoided if possible.
When you eat, food moves from the mouth through the esophagus and into the stomach to be digested. At the end of the esophagus, there is a band of muscles that open and allow the food to go into the stomach. It then closes to prevent the food and acid from coming back up into the esophagus. Many people experience acid reflux when foods or digestive juices escape the stomach and come back up through the esophagus.
To make sure your stomach has enough acid at mealtimes, make sure you chew your food thoroughly. Getting saliva mixed into the food as you chew will get the digestion process off to a good start.
Snacking throughout the day causes the stomach to pump out acid gradually instead of saving it for mealtimes when it is needed the most. It is best to not eating closer than three hours apart. For example - if you eat breakfast at six a.m. and lunch at twelve p.m. then a snack at nine a.m. would be fine.
Next, make sure you do not drink too much liquid while eating a meal. Too much liquid dilutes the necessary acid in the stomach. The best policy is to drink a glass of water 30 minutes to one hour before or after your meal, with only a few ounces consumed during the meal. After you have eaten, one hour or two feel free to guzzle down all the pure natural water you want.
Another cause of acid reflux comes from eating large meals. This increases pressure on the stomach causing the stomach contents to be forced out and up into the esophagus. You will need to give your body at least two hours to digest your food properly. In addition, never ever lie down immediately after eating a large meal.
To avoid overproduction of acid eat smaller portions of food at each meal. It would also help a lot to eliminate any fried food or food that contains refined sugar, or caffeine.
Obesity can also increase abdominal pressure, and your risk of suffering from acid reflux as well. If you are overweight, cutting back on the amounts of food that you eat at each meal, and exercising daily should put you on the right path to helping you shed a few pounds.
Acid reflux is caused in some people when the sphincter muscle at the end of the esophagus becomes weak or does not close correctly. Prescription drugs, certain foods, alcohol, and smoking have been known to weaken the sphincter muscles.
Try not to use antacids since they cut down the acids you will need when you eat. Without enough acid, your stomach is unable to do its job of breaking down the food into the various nutrient components.
Inadequate digestion of proteins can cause the liver to increase production of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, which is the bad cholesterol that does the most damage to your body.
Instead of taking antacids, try the following natural approach. If you still have sour stomach in between meals try eating something that will settle it without triggering more acid production such as sauerkraut. Your stomach should relax after eating sauerkraut in five to ten minutes.
The benefits of natural solutions are they normally cost a lot less, but even more important is the fact that natural solutions are a healthier alternative. They tend to reduce the possibility of becoming dependant on addictive chemical drugs.
There are also three herbs that are well known for soothing stomach muscles, which are chamomile, gentian, and ginger. If your problem does not respond successfully to natural remedies within a few days, please see your health care provider.
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