GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) is a condition where the acid-containing contents in your stomach persistently leak back up into your esophagus (i.e. food pipe)
Acid reflux occurs because a valve at the end of your esophagus does not close entirely when food arrives at your stomach. Acid backwash then flows back up through your esophagus into your throat and mouth, giving you a sour taste.1 Acid reflux happens to almost everyone at some point in life. If you have been having repeated episodes of acid reflux, try the following:2
1. Eat slowly and sparingly
The tendency of reflux is higher when the stomach is very full. If your schedule permits, have smaller meals more frequently rather than having three main meals per day.
Otherwise, you can reduce your meal size by having healthier snacks such as sun-dried figs, yacon root slices and quinoa puffs between your meal times to fuel you throughout the day. These snacks not only keep you full, but are also packed with antioxidants.
2. Avoid foods that can trigger reflux
Mint, tomatoes, onions, garlic, coffee, tea, chocolate, spicy foods and fatty foods are more prone to trigger reflux.3 If you consume any of these foods regularly, try eliminating them to see if it helps to control your reflux and then try adding them back one by one.
3. Avoid carbonated beverages
Carbonated beverages (e.g. sparkling water, beer, sweetened soda) cause belching (burping), which would promote reflux of stomach contents.
4. Avoid eating near to bedtime
Avoid late suppers, midnight snacks and napping/sleeping after meals. Lying down while your stomach is full can cause acid to flow back up to the esophagus. As a rule of thumb, finish eating three hours before you sleep.
5. Avoid vigorous exercise after eating
An after-meal stroll is ok, but strenuous workout, particularly if it involves bending over can promote reflux.
6. Lose weight if your BMI is above 23 kg/m2
Increased weight spreads the muscular structure that supports the lower esophageal sphincter. As a result, this decreases the pressure that holds the sphincter closed, leading to reflux and heartburn.
7. Quit smoking
Nicotine relaxes the lower esophageal sphincter, promoting reflux.
8. Check your medications
Postmenopausal estrogen, tricyclic antidepressants, anti-inflammatory painkillers, bisphosphonates like alendronate (Fosamax), ibandronate (Boniva), or risedronate (Actonel), may promote reflux.
9. Herbal remedies
Herbal remedies such as chamomile tea can provide a soothing effect on the digestive tract, while ginger, which has been a folk remedy for reflux for centuries maybe helpful for managing reflux.4
If you experience acid reflux more than twice a week over a period of several weeks and these steps are not effective, please visit a physician. You may need medication to control reflux even as you pursue lifestyle changes.
Cleveland Clinic. 2019. GERD (Chronic Acid Reflux) [ONLINE] Available at: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/17019-gerd-or-acid-reflux-or-heartburn-overview. [Accessed 14 April 2021].
Havard Health Publishing. 2021. 9 ways to relive acid reflux without medication [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.health.harvard.edu/digestive-health/9-ways-to-relieve-acid-reflux-without-medication. [Accessed 15 April 2021].
SingHealth. 2021. Acid Reflux: Diagnosis and Treatment [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.healthxchange.sg/head-neck/ear-nose-throat/acid-reflux-diagnosis-treatment. [Accessed 16 April 2021].
Havard Health Publishing. 2021. What is GERD of Gastroesophageal reflux disease [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.health.harvard.edu/digestive-health/9-ways-to-relieve-acid-reflux-without-medication . [Accessed 17 April 2021].