Have you been diagnosed with GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease)? If so, you might have felt frightened. It can feel scary and overwhelming to be diagnosed with a disease.
GERD has probably also impacted the lifestyle you once enjoyed. It may seem as though living with GERD is preventing you from doing the things you love.
Not anymore. It’s time to take back control.
So if you’re living with GERD and you want your life back, here are five changes you need to make.
What does it mean to be living with GERD?
Gastroesophageal reflux disease is no joke. It can affect your stomach, lungs, vocal cords, and larynx as well as your esophagus.
When eating, a healthy lower esophageal sphincter (LES) closes after allowing food to pass from the esophagus through to the stomach. It does so to prevent food and acidic stomach juices from entering the esophagus and causing damage along with pain.
When you’re living with GERD, the LES does not work properly, resulting in painful symptoms for one in every five adults. If this is you, then it is time to take prompt action.
What are some symptoms experienced when living with GERD?
Fortunately, your body usually informs you when something isn’t right. For those adults living with GERD, here are the are common symptoms:
- A constant dry cough
- A frequent hoarse or dry throat
- Persistent throat clearing
- Heartburn that sometimes spreads to your throat
- Acid reflux (or food regurgitation) that can result in a sour taste in your mouth
- A lump-like feeling in your throat
- Chest pain – seek attention immediately since chest pain could also be a heart attack
It’s time to contact your doctor if you’re experiencing some of these symptoms on a regular basis.
LEARN MORE: GERD SYMPTOMS 101
Things to do if you are living with GERD
However, there’s a lot you can do to help yourself before you see a doctor. While powerful PPI medications may reduce or eliminate your symptoms, they come with many health risks. More importantly, PPI medications do not stop reflux, and they cannot stop your disease from progressing to serious complications.
For anyone living with GERD, we recommend the following five changes. These are natural and holistic changes that most GERD experts would agree are important parts of a comprehensive treatment program.
#1 – Sleep in an Elevated Position
Sleeping with the upper half of your body elevated is important to reduce the potential damage that can occur during sleep. When you are horizontal, gravity helps to keep the contents of your stomach where they belong – in your stomach. However, when sleeping horizontal, stomach contents can flow into and pool in the esophagus, potentially damaging the lining of the esophagus.
Here are some tips to avoid this problem:
- Your collarbone must be higher than your hip bone for this to work. You can’t just prop up your head with more pillows since your esophagus must be slanted for this to work.
- You might try a foam wedge to prop up your body or consider the MedCline Reflux Relief System that also keeps you sleeping on your left side.
- Another approach is to raise the headboard of your bed. Try using wooden blocks or books to raise the headboard 7 inches.
- Avoid eating anything at least 3 hours before you lay down to watch TV or go to sleep. This time will allow most of your dinner to properly digest and pass from the stomach into the intestines, reducing the amount of acid in your stomach.
LEARN MORE: How to treat heartburn using elevation therapy
#2 – Exercise, stress, and diet
Exercise Regularly. No need to go crazy. Just start with taking walks around the neighborhood a few times a week. The point is to get moving. Your entire body will feel better when you implement a regular exercise regime.
Avoid Stress. Easier said than done sometimes. However, taking walks, a bath, and taking a few deep breaths will all help you reduce your stress level.
Maintain a healthy GERD-friendly diet. This is a must if you want to alleviate your GERD symptoms. Consider walking for 15 to 20 minutes after a meal to improve digestion.
Eat Real Food. Avoid the inner aisles of the grocery store and pre-packaged meals and snacks. Non-citrus fruits and vegetables have extra health benefits besides reducing your GERD symptoms.
Here are 7 foods to add to your diet when living with GERD:
- Ginger: Remember when Mom gave you Ginger ale when your stomach was upset? That’s because it’s great for your stomach. Adding ginger root to hot water is a hot beverage with several health benefits
- Oatmeal and Whole Grain Rice: Along with being excellent sources of fiber, they’ll also absorb the acid in your stomach.
- Fruits: (non-citrus) Apples, pears, bananas, peaches, and melons are all great choices.
- Lean Meats: Chicken, turkey, fish, and seafood are all excellent, healthy choices. You can bake, grill, broil, and poach, but no deep frying!
- Egg Whites: While the high-fat content of an egg yolk may trigger your symptoms, egg whites will not.
- Healthy Fats: Avocados, walnuts, flaxseed, olive oil, sesame oil, and sunflower oil are all tasty, healthy fats you can include into your diet.
- Vegetables: Green beans, broccoli, asparagus, cauliflower, leafy greens, potatoes, and cucumbers are all great choices.
Health Tip: Try drinking more water to improve digestion and increase your body’s hydration. How much water? Use this computation: your weight in pounds / 2 = number of ounces of water to consume daily.
LEARN MORE: 5 steps to an effective acid reflux diet
#3 – Avoid These Foods
Certain foods can irritate your body and make your GERD symptoms worse. Since everyone is different, you will need to track these foods and compare them to your symptoms to determine which are “trigger foods.”
Here is a list of typical foods to avoid when living with GERD.
- Fatty foods
- Spicy foods
- Acidic foods such as citrus and tomatoes
- Caffeine – especially coffee
- Carbonated beverages
- Tomatoes and tomato paste
LEARN MORE: Substitutes for foods that trigger acid reflux
#4 – Eat More Meals But Less Food
Eating large quantities of food at one sitting is never a smart idea for anyone. But for those that struggle with GERD, it must be avoided. Large meals distend the stomach, putting pressure on the diaphragm and pulling the LES into the stomach.
As the LES is pulled into the stomach, it shortens. As the LES shortens, it becomes weak and loses its ability to provide a barrier between the stomach and the esophagus. Over a long time frame, this stomach distension can permanently weaken the LES.
The solution is simple – practice portion control and eat smaller meals more frequently.
LEARN MORE: GERD diet plan – small changes, big relief
#5 – Try these ideas instead
- Eat 4-6 meals/snacks per day instead of three (or even two for many adults).
- Eat smaller portions.
- Eat slowly. Try putting your fork down between each bite.
- Drink water between meals to help with satiation.
When you’re living with GERD, some things have to go. So it’s time to make some smart lifestyle changes to enjoy a full and thriving life. This includes abstaining from or significantly lowering your intake of these three items.
Cigarettes. Smoking increases your risk of GERD. It also increases your risk of a lot of other unpleasant diseases. Quitting today can lead to a longer, healthier life.
Alcohol. If you are drinking to help relieve stress try meditation, yoga, or taking walks in nature (or even in your neighborhood).
Gluten. Some adults have a gluten intolerance, which will trigger symptoms similar to GERD/ silent reflux.
Health Tip: Consider being tested for food allergies since they too can create symptoms similar to GERD/silent reflux.
LEARN MORE: Five GERD diet rules for a healthier life
Living with GERD isn’t a life sentence
Talk to your physician about your current medications and your lifestyle. Also, RefluxMD is here to support you with the best weight loss program for GERD sufferers and the top GERD-friendly food plan and diet program. Don’t delay – RefluxMD is here to help you get started today and find your path to relief and good health!