GERD affects one in three French people and nearly 50% of patients suffering from gastroesophageal reflux say they are dissatisfied with their drug treatments. The adoption of certain lifestyle and dietary habits remains a crucial component of the treatment that will help you reduce the intensity and frequency of reflux.
GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease, is not necessarily a serious problem, but it can become one if the necessary precautions are not taken. It is characterized by a rise of the acidic contents of the stomach into the esophagus or to the mouth, which can lead to a change in the quality of life of the individual and damage to the esophagus. This phenomenon usually occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), a muscle located at the junction between the stomach and the esophagus which acts as an anti-reflux system, has had trouble functioning normally.
Normally, this muscle opens only when food travels down the esophagus into the stomach and then closes to prevent acidic stomach contents from flowing back up the esophagus. However, in people who suffer from gastric reflux, this muscle becomes a little less vigilant. Remaining half-open after the ingestion of food, this sphincter allows the acidic contents to sneak into the esophagus. But the cells of the esophagus are not designed to withstand such an acid pH.
Result: burning sensations in the stomach (heartburn) and acid reflux in the esophagus or mouth are felt after a meal. Additionally, bad bitter or sour taste in the mouth, regurgitation, recurrent cough, sore throat, and erosion of tooth enamel are other symptoms that can be seen in people with acid reflux.
Tips for containing GERD
In order to reduce gastric reflux, the adoption of healthy lifestyle habits and certain specific eating behaviors can have a considerable positive impact.
So here are some tips to bet on:
– Eat slowly and make sure to chew each bite well;
– Eat smaller portions of food more often. To do this, focus on listening to signals of hunger and satiety and include snacks between meals as soon as you feel a bit peckish. You will thus be less hungry at mealtimes, you will find it easier to reduce the tempo and you will be better able to respect your satiety (not to be too full after the meal);
– Maintain an upright position during meals and 45 to 60 minutes after meals;
– Regain your natural weight (for people suffering from overweight or obesity);
– Be sure to consume 2 to 3 servings of meat per day and promote the consumption of low-fat protein sources, such as lean fish, poultry, tofu, tempeh, legumes
What to avoid doing in case of GERD
Conversely, certain foods or eating behaviors can accentuate gastric reflux. Here are some other tips to reduce them:
– Avoid lying down or bending over 2 to 3 hours after eating;
– Avoid heavy meals;
– Avoid chewing gum and sparkling drinks, such as soft drinks and carbonated water, which introduce air into your digestive system;
– Avoid fatty or fried foods, such as fast food, pastries, ultra-processed food products, deli meats, high-fat cheeses and fatty meats or their skins, as they reduce LES tone;
– Avoid foods rich in methylxanthines, such as chocolate, tea, cola or coffee, as they reduce LES tone;
– Avoid foods rich in volatile acids, such as mint (chewing gum, lozenges, etc.), as they reduce LES tone;
– Limit your alcohol consumption to special occasions;
– Avoid gastric irritants, such as citrus fruits or tomatoes and their juices, coffees (regular or decaffeinated), strong spices, alcohol and carbonated drinks.
A few simple gestures can be useful
– Raise the headboard by about 15 cm;
– Stop smoking;
– Take a walk after the meal;
– Adopt good sleep hygiene;
– Avoid tight clothing.
Esmaillizadeh, A et al. Patterns of diet-related practices and prevalence of gastroesophageal reflux disease. Neurogastroenterology & Motility 2013; 25:831-e638.
Wu, KL et al. Effect of liquid meals with different volumes on gastroesophageal reflux disease. Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology 2014; 29:469-473.
Yamamichi, N et al. Lifestyle factors affecting gastroesophageal reflux disease symptoms: a cross-sectional study of healthy 19864 adults using FSSG scores. BMC Medicine 2012; 10:45
Yang, JH et al. Recurrence of gastroesophageal reflux disease correlated with a short dinner-to-bedtime interval. Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology 2014; 29:730-735.