Holiday Health: "Come On Baby, Light My Fire" (GERD)
GERD. What's that? Simplified, it's chronic heartburn. We'll get to the real nitty gritty in a minute. Thanksgiving week is GERD Awareness Week. Why? Because now is the time, that lots of us with acid reflux issues will be celebrating the glorious vittles, and sometime later asking "now why did you eat that?", while "Burning Ring of Fire" plays in our chests...
So we're going to give you some info about common triggers and things to avoid if this is something you struggle with. First, lets talk a little more about what GERD is. If you've never felt the sensation of heartburn, count yourself lucky. What this burning is, is the backwards flow- reflux- of stomach acid into the throat- the esophagus. What makes GERD different from heartburn, is that it happens twice or more per week and/or causes swelling or damage to the esophagus. It is also important to know that not everyone with GERD has heartburn type symptoms. It's important though, that if you experience heartburn or any of the other associated symptoms twice a week, you speak to your healthcare provider. Why is it important? Along with ulcers and bleeding, untreated GERD is a risk factor for development of esophageal cancer because of the constant irritation, damage and swelling that it causes. I mentioned other associated symptoms earlier. Those can include chest pain, dry cough, trouble swallowing, asthma, or feeling like food has come back up into your throat or mouth.
What you really want to know- how to avoid the attack of molten lava.
Common food triggers: There's a muscle at the bottom of your throat that keeps the food and acid in your stomach. This is called the Lower Esophageal Sphincter, LES for short. There are certain foods that make this muscle a little floppy, so acid and foods can come back up out of the stomach. Some of these foods include greasy/fatty foods, heavily spiced or spicy foods- garlic, raw onion, black pepper; caffeine- tea and soda; chocolate; acidic foods- citrus fruits and tomatoes; peppermint; alcohol. Keeping a symptom diary might be helpful in identifying triggers if you don't already know what they are. For more information on food triggers as well as foods that may help, click here.
Things to do/not do: Avoiding GERD episodes is not only going to take dietary changes, but also other changes to our behaviors. Don't over eat- when your stomach is stretched beyond capacity, that muscle can't close completely. And you know what happens after that. Stay upright after eating- let gravity help you. Try not to lay down for at least 2 hours after you eat. Which leads me to eating before sleep- do not eat at least 3 to 4 hours before going to bed. Don't chew peppermint or spearmint gum- chewing gum encourages the production of stomach acid anyway. Add on top of that mint, and you've got a situation. Sleep with your head raised- again, using gravity here. Sleeping with your head raised 4 to 6 inches can help reduce reflux activity. Visit this page for more information about GERD.
How RNovations can help: RNovations Health is here to help. We provide community health seminars about managing conditions such as diabetes. There we assist people with learning the basics of their disease, medications, and treatments as well as how to make better choices one step at a time. We can help you with medication and nutrition review and counseling, that you can use to manage your health not only during the holidays, but every day thereafter. We also assist with health system navigation so that if you do need services, you are using the most effective mix of services. Give us a call at 804.386.4663 if you want to see how we can be of assistance to you or your group/community. You can also send us an email via the contact us page. We're here for you!
*The information contained above is for educational purposes only. Consult with your physician before making any changes to your diet or treatment regimen. Links provided above do not constitute and endorsement of any organization, rather that the information on the linked page has been verified.