Managing Reflux And Heartburn

The terms reflux and heartburn are the early symptoms of the disorder known as Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GORD).  It is an unpleasant condition which is quite common amongst the Australian population. Almost 20% of all Australians suffer from reflux or heartburn on a regular basis. The good news is that besides medication, sometimes just changing your lifestyle and diet can drastically improve this condition and make a welcome improvement to your daily life.

How does reflux/heart burn occur?

Reflux can occur when you eat or drink something and the acid leaks into your food pipe from the stomach. It can cause a bitter sour taste in your mouth – reflux, or discomfort or tightening in your chest – heartburn.

Food to eat when you are suffering from reflux/heartburn symptoms

Certain foods have been found to exacerbate reflux in some people. If you have been experiencing reflux or heartburn there are certain foods which are better than others to reduce the symptoms.

Ginger is one of those wonder foods which has numerous properties that may aid in reducing symptoms of nausea and help with heartburn. You don’t need to eat an entire thumb but try include it in meals. Ginger tea will also do the trick.

Non-citrus fruits
Certain fruits can trigger reflux so try sticking to non-citrus varieties like apples, bananas melons and pears.

Seafood and lean meats
Stick to low-fat meats like turkey, chicken and fish – preferably grilled, baked or poached.

Vegetables are a vital part of any diet as they assist in reducing stomach acid. Options to consider include green beans, potatoes, cucumbers, broccoli, cauliflower and asparagus.

Egg whites
Try to avoid egg yolks but egg whites are an excellent option.

Eat healthy fats
These include avocados, olive oil, walnuts and flaxseed.

Foods which have been seen to cause reflux in some patients

Garlic and onions
This is tough to avoid but there are alternatives. Best is to use dehydrated versions of the two flavourings, getting all the taste without the reflux-causing acidity.

Fried foods
Fried, greasy, and fatty foods can cause heartburn and reflux because they prevent the lower oesophageal sphincter from fully tightening, thus creating a way for stomach acid to flow upward into the throat. Fried, high fat foods also increase the risk of being over-weight which is also a risk factor for developing reflux and heartburn

Spicy foods
Most of us love some spice, but they are a common trigger for those that suffer from heartburn. Herbs are an excellent replacement, try basil, ginger, thyme or oregano. All the taste none of the heartburn.

Citrus fruits
These contain high levels of acidity and fruits like lemons, oranges and tomatoes should be avoided whenever possible. Use berries, bananas or pears instead.

Lifestyle changes you can implement to reduce reflux/heartburn symptoms

Beside food related substitutes there are some other lifestyle changes you can implement to reduce reflux symptoms.

Stop smoking
Beside some of the more commonly known health benefits associated with quitting smoking, another benefit to quitting smoking is the reduction of reflux and heartburn.  The nicotine in cigarettes relaxes the lower oesophageal sphincter – a tight ring of muscle that connects the oesophagus and the stomach. The sphincter acts to prevent acid from refluxing into the oesophagus. When nicotine causes the sphincter to relax more acid will enter the oesophagus.

Drink less alcohol
Alcohol can irritates the stomach and oesophagus, thus it can contribute heartburn and reflux this it is advised to limit consumption of alcohol to reduce reflux symptoms.

Lose weight
The heavier you are in relation to your optimal weight the more likely you are to suffer from GORD. Speak to your doctor and find what you should be weighing and lose the excess weight if necessary.

Eat smaller meals

Avoid lying down after eating
Try to avoid getting prone after a meal, it allows your food to digest better, with less chance of a build up of acids in your system.

What is GORD?

GORD (Gastro-oesophageal reflux disease) is reflux or heartburn but with more severe symptoms. Generally someone suffering GORD will experience reflux symptoms two or more times a week with severe symptoms which effect day to day life.

If you have concerns about reflux, heartburn or GORD and it is affecting your lifestyle, please come in and have a chat to one of our GPs at Alma Village Medical Centre. There are a number of treatment options available which we can discuss with you and develop a plan for your individual requirements.

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