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The Reflux Diet: Foods and Behaviors That Help You

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What foods to avoid in the diet for reflux? Let’s discover the foods and drinks that increase symptoms and the useful tricks to stop having to deal with annoying heartburn day and night.

January 10, 2022
last modified on 10/01/2022

Stress is often blamed, other times with specific foods. The fact is that gastroesophageal reflux is a very common disorder that can be dealt with at any age and for very different reasons. There diet it is essential to counteract its symptoms, due to irritation of the esophagus wall. However, it is equally important to look at one’s lifestyle in a more global way, to identify all the habits (food and otherwise) that can contribute to the appearance of these disorders.

Symptoms of reflux

If you suffer from reflux, chances are you are familiar with that burning sensation which affects behind the breastbone which is considered the typical symptom of this disorder. It may appear or accentuate after a heavy meal, or after lying down in bed. However, this is not the only problem triggered by reflux; on the contrary, in some cases the rise of the acids in the esophagus does not trigger any burning, presenting itself, instead, with what are defined as “atypical symptoms”.

In fact, on the one hand it is easy for reflux to trigger symptoms in the throat (not only burning but also difficulty in swallowing and sore throat), nausea after meals, regurgitation, hiccups, cough and wheezing. The fact that they can get worse at night it is due to the lying position, which facilitates reflux. On the other hand, however, it can also lead to the appearance of nasopharyngitis, laryngitis, sinusitis, bronchial asthma, recurrent bronchitis and bronchopneumonia, aspiration pneumonia, snoring, hoarseness, changes in the tone of voice, gingivitis, halitosis and caries. And it can too increase salivation – a symptom that probably wouldn’t make you think about reflux.

The causes of reflux

At the base of these symptoms there is always the imperfect closure of the valve that separates the esophagus from the stomach (lo lower esophageal sphincter). The function of this structure is to prevent the passage (reflux) of gastric contents from the stomach into the esophagus. This action is essential to avoid irritation of the esophagus wall, which is not designed to withstand the acidity of the material in the stomach. If the sphincter does not work and the gastric contents go up the esophagus, it risks being irritated or even damaged by gastric acidity.

the cause that can compromise the functioning of the lower esophageal sphincter are of various kinds. For example, hormones come into play in pregnancy. In other cases, the underlying problem is the presence of a hiatal hernia. Other factors, such as stress, smoking or, as mentioned, the habit of lying down immediately after meals, can aggravate the situation. Focusing on the role of nutrition, it must be premised that each case is a story in itself: foods that trigger reflux in some people do not give any problems to others. For this the best option you have available to identify the foods that give you problems is the food diary; by keeping track of the foods and drinks consumed and the appearance of reflux symptoms you will be able to understand what triggers your ailment. Also, if you are in the overweight you must consider the possibility that this condition may also contribute to the problem; in this case, shedding the excess pounds could be of great help.

The diet against reflux

Therefore, there is no one-size-fits-all diet against reflux. However, since certain foods and drinks are more typically associated with reflux symptoms, advice against reflux typically focuses on reducing their consumption. In some cases, these are foods or drinks that are thought to contribute to the abnormal opening of the lower esophageal sphincter (for example, carbonated or caffeinated drinks). In others, these are foods that contribute to reflux by weighing down digestion (such as those rich in fat). At other times, it is not the foods or drinks that promote reflux per se, but that aggravate its symptoms. Think, for example, of orange juice: it is an acidic drink that, flowing on an esophageal wall itself inflamed by reflux, only irritates it further.

In general, in case of reflux it is advisable reduce the consumption of salty and high-fat foods. Among dairy products it is better to prefer those with low fat content and leaner ones among meats. Also pay attention to baked goods: better to avoid them if they are rich in butter, margarine or oil; rather, prefer the simpler ones. Other foods and drinks you should look out for include:

  • citrus fruits and their juices;
  • tomato and its derivatives;
  • garlic and onion;
  • the chocolate;
  • drinks containing caffeine;
  • carbonated drinks;
  • alcoholic beverages;
  • mint;
  • spices and spicy foods;
  • the soy sauce.

Behaviors at the table

In addition to what you eat, yours too behaviors at the table can contribute to reflux symptoms. For example, you could improve the situation by making gods less abundant meals, perhaps increasing the frequency. If you’re not used to snacking mid-morning and mid-afternoon, you might want to try introducing them just for eat more often reducing the abundance of main meals. Also try a eat more slowly: it could be of great help. And try, if necessary, to lower your stress level. In fact, being stressed can increase your appetite, lead you to choose unhealthy foods, or accentuate habits that can aggravate reflux symptoms (such as smoking or drinking alcohol). Furthermore, digestion can also be affected by stress, with consequences that can manifest themselves as an increase in discomfort caused by reflux. Finally, stress can increase the sensitivity of the esophagus to stomach acids. In short, the reasons to reduce it are not lacking even when you suffer from heartburn in the upper part of the digestive system.

One last thing that can help you, especially if your reflux symptoms are bothering you while lying down, is avoid getting horizontally shortly after eating. Sleeping with the upper body slightly elevated in bed may also help; try an extra pillow: maybe this way the reflux will stop disturbing your rest.

Graduated in Biological Sciences with a PhD in Genetic and Biomolecular Sciences, she worked in the field of research until 2009 more …

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