16 October 2014 | Column | By Manisha Vaidya
We all love to celebrate festivals, birthdays, achievements and successes. Every celebration comes with food and we love to eat. We all should take take time out and enjoy our traditions. While food is central to these events, the problem arises when we overeat and do not follow proper precautions. Everyone has experienced heart burn (Acid Reflux) after a heavy meal at some point. Occasional heart burn is common, but frequent heart burn can lead to acid reflux or GERD.
GERD (Acid reflux): When you swallow, a muscle called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) usually closes, to keep food from returning to the esophagus, after it enters the stomach. If the LES relaxes when it should not, stomach acids and digestive juices can return to the esophagus. This reflux action can lead to uncomfortable or painful symptoms of GERD, including heart burn, regurgitation, coughing and choking.
Diet and Nutrition Therapy (Recommendations):
1) Eat slowly and eat it in a relaxed environment. It may not be possible for everyone to do this. However, keep trying.
2) Keep a daily log, food diary, or food journal that will help you pinpoint what triggers the acid reflux.
3) Avoid sleeping or lying down immediately after eating.
4) Avoid eating late night dinners as much as possible, or at least maintain a 3 hours difference between dinner and bedtime.
Food to avoid or eat only sparingly:
1) Fried food.
2) Spicy food. I know we are used to eating spicy food, however, try to cut down on spice in your cooking.
3) High calorie dairy (milk products) such as cheese, butter, cream.
4) Avoid fried or fatty meats. Eat at least one vegetarian meal a day.
5) Limiting consumption of nuts such as walnuts and almonds is usually recommended.
6) Citrus fruits: some people have problem with oranges, tomatoes, pineapples.
7) Caffeine and carbonated drinks.
8) Garlic and onions: Some people have problem with raw garlic and onions or in some cases, cooked onions and garlic.
9) Alcohol and smoking can trigger heart burn.
10) Chocolate and mint can also cause heart burn.
In some cases, chewing gum helps suppress acid reflux, but should not be in excess.
After reading the foods listed above, the statement ‘‘take time out and enjoy our traditions” at the beginning of this article may seem contradictory to the recommendations.
However, here are some tips to enjoy food, but still be healthy and avoid acid reflux.
Enjoy your food. Moderation and portion control is very important.
Limit all the food listed above, do not avoid it completely.
Keep food log/diary. Food log is helpful to monitor your calories and the way we eat.
Share your dessert or sweet dish or ice cream with a friend or family member.
When eating out, instead of drinking a whole can of soda or any calorie rich drink by yourself, share it with someone. If you are alone then I would suggest it be avoided.
Drink plenty of water. If you are tired of drinking plain water, try adding washed and peeled cucumber slices in the water and keep it in the refrigerator. Water tastes very refreshing with lime or lemon wedges. It also tastes good, but is generally not recommended for people with GERD.
Low calorie drinks, such as lime water, low fat milk, coconut water, iced coffee and decaffinated tea or coffee with less or no sugar.
It is recommended to have grilled, shallow fry and steamed food instead of food items with crunchy texture and/or lot of gravy.
Stop eating when you feel full.
Dessert can be a fruit salad or try new recipes by substituting high calorie food with low calorie food items.
Snacking between meals or before bedtime can be limited. Eat very small portions and healthy snacking is very important.
GERD can affect anyone who is not careful about diet and exercise. However it is more prevalent in overweight persons, and those under stress. For example, students studying late nights and drinking tea and coffee to stay awake in preparation for an exam, or workers on late night shifts.
Food and beverages that can help get relief with GERD. There is not a specific food or diet regimen for GERD. Each person will experience different reactions to different foods. Here are some common observations and
Curd (yogurt) and probiotics helps: Probiotics are a type of good bacteria commonly found in curd help with GERD.
Drink more water and avoid drinking too much tea and coffee.
Remember that dairy or dairy products are an important food group in our diet. I recommend at least 2-3 servings of milk products a day. When you drink low fat or skim milk you will get same amount of protein, but less fat.
Fibre: Include salads, legumes (for example, moong sprout), raw cucumber, beet root and raw spinach in your diet.
However, I have experienced that you can feel good if you eat well balanced meals; including all food groups, fibre in your diet, exercise daily and take time out for yourself. Always learn to manage stress. This will help you to stay away from acid reflux or GERD and enjoy overall good health.
Always talk to your doctor; because taking over the counter medication or using homemade remedies can relieve these symptoms temporarily. Take your acid reflux or GERD seriously - if acid reflux or GERD is not controlled, it can lead to serious problems, including esophagitis, esophageal bleeding and ulcers. This can lead to increased risk of esophageal cancer.
Keep it real and learn to say no when it comes to your health and well-being. Eating healthy is a lifestyle change and it is possible if we really want to change our lifestyles to avoid any complications.