Acid reflux? Best 3 foods to eat and avoid
It's estimated up to 20% of people suffer from acid reflux, also known as 'GERD'. Acid reflux is a common problem and shouldn't be ignored, so our nutritionists explain 'GERD', the causes and symptoms, and the best foods to reach for if you suffer acid reflux.
What is GERD?
'GERD' stands for 'gastro-oesophageal reflux disease'. It is when acid from the stomach comes back up through the oesophagus, causing a burning or warming sensation. It can be mild or severe and the condition can last for a prolonged period of time and result in health complications.
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What causes acid reflux?
Acid reflux is a result of a failure or relaxation of the 'oesophageal sphincter'. The oesophageal sphincter is a ring of muscles at the top of the stomach that, when functioning normally, prevent the regurgitation of food and acid. Usually, the ring of muscles close tightly after a meal, but failure to do so causes acid reflux and a burning, warm sensation.
Another cause of acid reflux can be having high levels of acid that is too weak. This can prompt the body to create and release more acid which triggers reflux.
Common symptoms of acid reflux
The most common symptoms of acid reflux are:
- a burning sensation in the chest after eating, often becoming worse at night.
- the feeling of a lump in your throat.
- chest pain.
- regurgitation of food or liquid.
What's the difference between heartburn and indigestion?
People often refer to their heartburn as indigestion. However, indigestion covers a variety of digestive complications and symptoms, not just heartburn. Heartburn is a specific type of indigestion creating a burning feeling in the chest caused by stomach acid travelling up towards the throat. Learn more about how to improve digestion naturally from our nutritionists.
Best 3 foods to eat and avoid
There are some simple dietary changes you can make to avoid or reduce acid reflux and heartburn.
Best foods to eat
There is an extensive diet designed to support those with GERD, known as the 'GERD diet'. Here are the best foods and supplements to reach for.
1. Fibre-rich foods: Fibre-rich foods such as wholegrains and vegetables and fruit absorb liquids, including stomach acid. This helps to prevent the acid from refluxing into the oesophagus. They also promote a healthy microbe balance within your gut, supporting better overall digestion. You may also be interested to read how to get rid of constipation.
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2. Apple cider vinegar: Apple cider vinegar balances the acidity in the stomach, improving digestion and may help to prevent or decrease acid reflux. In most cases acid reflux is due to the acid in your stomach not being strong enough, causing the body to produce more acid, making it more likely to spill into the oesophagus. Apple vinegar can help regulate the acidity and prevent this from happening.
While apple cider vinegar can be excellent for relieving acid reflux, if you suffer from a 'chronically inflamed oesophagus', then it may irritate it. In these instances it is a ‘catch 22’, because you need to prevent the acid reflux initially to allow the oesophagus to heal, however there may be short term irritation as a result of taking the apple cider vinegar.
When taking apple cider vinegar it is recommended to take 10ml before each meal. If you are worried about the impact on your teeth, you can drink it through a straw so it avoids your teeth. Apple cider vinegar is also key ingredient in GlucoBalance® that provides advanced blood sugar control.
3. Ginger: Ginger is an excellent food if you suffer acid reflux. Ginger helps to relieve irritation in the gut and may help to decrease gastric contractions, taking the pressure off the oesophageal sphincter. Ginger can be taken as a tea, as a supplement, added to foods or taken as a juice. If you are taking a Curcumin & Turmeric supplement, make sure it contains ginger because the ginger can improve absorption of the turmeric by up to 2000%.
Foods to avoid
1. Fried and fatty foods: These foods take a long time to move through the stomach. This triggers the body to produce more acid, increasing the chance of acid reflux. The regular consumption of high-fat and fried foods can also have a negative impact on the gut microbe balance and inhibit your overall digestion. You may also enjoy learning about the '10 practical tips to reduce bloating'.
2. Spicy foods: Chilli contains a compound called 'capsaicin' that slows down digestion, encouraging your body to make more acid which increases the chance of acid rising up through the oesophagus.
3. Caffeinated drinks: Caffeine relaxes the oesophageal sphincter, allowing acid to pass more easily through into the oesophagus. If you can, choose natural caffeine-free drinks, or stick to water and herbal teas. You may also enjoy reading about the best alternatives to caffeine.
Best supplements for GERD
There are a number of herbal supplements, or formulas containing these, to reach for to help combat acid reflux and GERD.
Fennel: Fennel has a 'spasmolytic' effect on digestion. 'Spasmolytic' means that Fennel calms down spasms in the digestive tract, reducing the pressure on the stomach and the likelihood of acid or food reflux.
Milk thistle: Milk thistle contains the active compound 'silymarin' which stimulates the secretion of the right level of stomach acid, supporting the digestion of foods. Milk Thistle and Silymarin are key ingredients in Debloat & Detox.
Dandelion: Dandelion supports gastro-intestinal movement, meaning food will pass through the stomach appropriately. Food that moves along at the right pace decreases the demands on stomach acid and the likelihood of reflux. Dandelion also helps to relieve symptoms of indigestion.
Artichoke: Artichoke contributes towards the normal function of the digestive tract, helping everything to move along at the correct pace and for digestion to occur effectively, eliminating any digestive issues.
Debloat & Detox provides comprehensive digestive support, ideal for those with GERD. It contains herbs including Milk Thistle, Artichoke, Dandelion, and Fennel seed which, as mentioned above, support digestive processes and provide indigestion relief. Supporting your digestion is essential to ensure you produce the right level of stomach acid and prevent any reflux of foods and liquids past the oesophageal sphincter.
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Can probiotics help GERD?
Probiotics have a large number of functions within the body, including in the oesophagus. Probiotics help to modulate the natural probiotics in the oesophagus which intern help to regulate inflammation caused by reflux. The probiotics in your gut also regulate the speed of food transition, meaning food isn't sitting in the stomach for an unnecessary length of time, increasing the chances of reflux occurring.
If you're not sure why gut health is important, read why you should improve your gut health.
Probiotics are excellent for many aspects of digestion and gut health. They are especially beneficial for digestive processes and influence the probiotics naturally found in your gut, supporting those with indigestion and those in need of IBS support. Read our best probiotics for IBS.
Learn more in 'How to improve digestion naturally'.
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