Tis the season for gatherings, parties, celebrations, large meals and drinks!! Everywhere we go there are tempting foods, sweets and alcohol… If you’ve ever suffered from GERD symptoms BEWARE- foods such as chocolate, sugar and other simple carbohydrates, alcohol, and certain spices can increase symptoms.
GERD or “gastroesophageal reflux disease” affects 20-30 percent of Americans (Kresser, 2017). It is a digestive disorder that affects the lower esophageal sphincter, which is the ring of muscle between the esophagus and stomach. A person is considered to have GERD if they have symptoms 2 or more times per week. The classic symptom is heartburn, but may include regurgitation (burping up stomach content), chest pain, sore throat, nausea, vomiting and cough. It can interfere with your daily activities, is sometimes embarrassing and can progress to being quite debilitating.
Proton pump inhibitors are drugs often used to treat the symptoms of GERD. Although they may be useful, they are meant for very short-term use, and they don’t treat the cause of the reflux. Long-term use can increase the risk of osteoporosis, increase the risk for serious gut infections such as c-difficile, and decrease B12 absorption (B12 is essential for cognitive health). They are also known to alter the gut microbiota, give symptoms of nausea and vomiting, increase headaches and may impair nutrient absorption.
What causes reflux? For many, it is directly related to eating just before bed, eating large meals and being overweight. Just as important are the types of foods ingested- fried, spicy, citrus, tomato-based and processed foods. Drinking alcohol and caffeinated drinks are known triggers. Other causes can be chronic stress, food sensitivities, H. Pylori. For some, the underlying problem is small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). Symptoms of SIBO can include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain, bloating. Stay tuned for an upcoming blog about SIBO and how to correct it.
What can you do to improve symptoms of GERD and not suffer through the season?
· Decrease your intake of simple sugars and simple carbohydrates- if you want a holiday treat do it but take a much smaller portion
· Decrease alcohol intake- If you want to cheer to the new year, keep it to a minimum and avoid alcohol several hours before bed
· Don’t take more food than you should- this can be hard during this season but small portions taste just as good as large portions!
· Quit eating at least 3 hours before bed. Stay upright for at least an hour after eating.
· Eat foods with magnesium such as spinach, nuts, avocados and oats to increase the function of your esophageal sphincter (Hyman, 2019).
·Drink alkaline water at night, which may help if you have too much acidity in your belly.
Kimberly Marshall FNP-C
Board Certified Family Nurse Practitioner
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