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GERD Diet: Benefits, Side Effects, and More

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GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease, is a condition commonly associated with acid reflux. And, just as the name implies, it is caused by an excess of acid in your stomach, which leads to acid indigestion or heartburn (pyrosis.) Acid reflux happens when some of that stomach acid goes back into your esophagus, creating a burning sensation in your lower chest area.

GERD is diagnosed when acid reflux occurs more than twice a week. GERD and acid reflux are the most common gut complaints in hospital departments in the United States. To mitigate the condition, your doctor may recommend pills or a GERD diet.

A GERD diet works best, and many healthcare experts now recommend it among other lifestyle solutions. So, what is a GERD diet? This article highlights what the GERD diet is, talks about its accompanying benefits and discusses some side effects linked to GERD medications.

What Is GERD?

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Gastroesophageal reflux disease is caused by persistent acid reflux. Acid reflux is a common ailment. An estimated 15 million people in America experience daily heartburn symptoms. Regular heartburns cause GERD. While it is commonly referred to as acid reflux, GERD is a more chronic condition that requires medical treatment to reduce esophageal damage.

GERD is a chronic condition and can be unpleasant as it causes symptoms such as difficulty in swallowing, dry sore throat, hoarseness, coughing and heartburn. Depending on its severity, GERD’s symptoms can impair your daily routine and your quality of life. As if that weren’t enough, GERD can lead to life-threatening conditions, such as esophageal ulcers, Barrett’s esophagus and esophageal cancer.

Contrary to what the name implies, heartburn has nothing to do with your heart. Instead, the name likely refers to the burning sensations that occur around heartburn sufferers’ chests and upper gastrointestinal tracts. The burning sensations are caused by stomach acids as they leak back into your food pipe. The discomfort can last for up to two hours at a time.

Most people experience heartburn occasionally. GERD sufferers, however, experience at least twice a week the symptoms of acid reflux, including: 

  • Wheezing
  • Flatulence
  • Sore throat
  • Excessive belching
  • Coughing
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • A bitter taste

If you have excessive weight and suffer from GERD, that weight could be exacerbating any of the above ill effects.

GERD and Weight

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Being overweight is one cause of GERD. According to the American Society of Gastrointestinal Endoscopy, obesity is the leading cause of frequent heartburn. Why? It’s because excessive weight increases abdominal pressure, causing stomach acid to leak or flow back into the esophagus.

Also, tight clothing can also make GERD symptoms grow worse. This implies that wearing loose clothing and losing weight can help ease acid reflux and the chronic condition of GERD.

Weight Gain and Risk Factors

Becoming overweight is the biggest risk factor associated with GERD. In fact, temporary weight gain such as that during pregnancy, can cause heartburn. In such cases, the symptoms typically clear up once you get back to your normal weight.  

No matter the cause, acid reflux is bad enough, but it also aggravates these other health conditions:

  • Chest pain
  • Asthma
  • Vocal cord tumors
  • Sore throats
  • Chronic coughing

What Is the GERD Diet?

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The GERD Diet incorporates foods proven to reduce the symptoms and frequency of acid reflux. The GERD Diet entails healthy living, meaning you eat healthy foods, exercise regularly and reduce your levels of stress.

All this can prevent acid reflux issues, cardiovascular-related diseases and more. In fact, the GERD Diet provides a solution to a myriad of other health issues simply because it reduces acid reflux. But, you don’t have to suffer already from acid reflux to benefit from the GERD diet. It emphasizes a healthier way of life, which could probably benefit most of us.

The GERD Diet entails a commitment to reducing the consumption of foods with non-nutritive ingredients, such as sugar, and with high-fat content, including even those in packaged foods. This emphasis not only helps you reduce your intake of calories for weight loss, but it also decreases your risk of developing heartburn.

Weight Loss and Eating Habits

First off, since excessive weight generates GERD symptoms, you should focus on slimming down immediately. When obesity is severe and does not decline through diet and exercise, you may require weight loss surgery, such as liposuction or gastric bypass. Due to the surgery, heartburn may be a common side effect. You can manage this the same way as other heartburn remedies, which include:

  • Eating more slowly
  • Eating smaller meals
  • Avoiding trigger foods (spicy and high-fat foods)
  • Avoiding eating within two hours before bedtime
  • Elevating the head of your bed from 6 to 10 inches

Foods to Consider Eating

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In the battle to beat acid reflux, you should include the following foods in your GERD diet:

  • Low-fat milk products, such as ice cream, cheese and yogurt (avoid full-fat milk products)
  • Baked goods such as croissants, biscuits, pancakes, muffins, waffles and doughnuts
  • Meats and other proteins, including eggs, tofu, fish, skinless poultry, lean meat, fried meat, lunch meat and sausages (avoid fatty meat)
  • Fruits that are fresh, frozen or canned and fruit juice (avoid citruses like lemons, oranges, grapefruit and limes)
  • Vegetables, including those that are fresh, frozen or canned without added fat (avoid fried or creamed vegetables, as well as tomatoes, tomato products and onions)

Foods to Avoid

The GERD diet also requires you to avoid certain dietary habits that have been linked to acid reflux. These include:

  • Coffee
  • Alcohol
  • Garlic
  • Fatty foods
  • Spicy foods
  • Carbonated drinks
  • Tomatoes and related products
  • Citrus foods (including fruit juices)
  • Mints (especially peppermint)
  • Packaged/processed foods

Benefits, Side Effects, More

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Benefits of the GERD Diet

It’s easy to see how the diet helps with weight loss. In fact, dropping pounds is one of the best ways to beat GERD. Therefore, start by reducing your daily caloric intake. When you adopt a GERD diet, there is a high likelihood you will lose weight.

Besides watching what you eat (and what you don’t,) the diet means you’ll be exercising more — another strategy for losing weight to help with heartburn. Taking a walk after a meal will help burn the calories you consumed and aid in digestion. This way, there is little chance you will lie down after a meal and risk further stomach acid leakage.

Moreover, the GERD diet will mitigate any development of esophageal cancer. Additionally, eating healthy and exercise correlates with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and a reduced risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

Side Effects of Alternative Treatments

Those who simply don’t want to put in the work involved with a GERD Diet, often opt instead for popping those pills the commercials tout. These medications are either reactive by neutralizing stomach acid already there or are proactive by restricting the production of future stomach acid.

The problem with this is that the drugs aren’t meant as a continuing or long-term solution. Over time, they actually can have adverse effects due to their continual use. For example, proton pump inhibitors like Prilosec and Prevacid, which are taken to reduce stomach acid, have been correlated with an increased risk of developing osteoporosis or pneumonia, and also have negative interactions with other drugs.

Unfortunately, many over-the-counter pills are readily available to treat acid reflux. Still, they have played little in curtailing GERD incidence.

In the U.S., it’s estimated that four percent of adults suffer from acid reflux. Rates of esophageal cancer have also surged by 500 percent since the 1970s. A study from Denmark that tracked over 9,800 GERD sufferers linked proton pump inhibitors with the increase of esophageal cancer. This implies that medications and pills used in treating GERD are ineffective and potentially cause more harm than good. If patients adopted the GERD diet instead, they’d be much better off.

Conclusion

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GERD is caused by persistent acid reflux. It is a chronic condition that could lead to difficulty in swallowing, sore throat, hoarseness, coughing and heartburn. Severe GERD interrupts your routine and impairs your quality of life. GERD also can cause wheezing, flatulence, excessive belching among other issues related to the esophagus.

According to the American Society of Gastrointestinal Endoscopy, obesity is the leading cause of frequent heartburn, a symptom of GERD, while tight clothing can also worsen acid reflux. Loose clothing and losing weight can help ease acid reflux.

Following a GERD Diet means you eat healthier, avoiding high-fat content foods and non-nutritive sugars, you exercise regularly and you reduce your stress. Most people on the GERD Diet lose weight, which may reduce the acid reflux and greatly reduce the risks of developing esophageal cancer, cardiovascular disease or Type 2 diabetes.

While it may seem easier to take GERD medications to eliminate excessive stomach acid or restrict the production of stomach acid in the future, the problem is that long-term use of drugs has negative effects. For example, proton pump inhibitors like Prilosec and Prevacid can lead to osteoporosis and pneumonia, plus negative interactions with other medications.

Taking all this into consideration, it is very clear that the GERD diet is the best, safest and our top choice for a recommended solution to your acid reflux woes.

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