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The esophagus is the tube that carries food from the throat to the stomach. However, it is not just a simple tube. The lower esophagus has a specialized muscle around it that usually stays tightly closed, opening only to allow food and liquid into the stomach. It acts to prevent the reflux of stomach acid into the esophagus.
Symptoms occur when this specialized muscle weakens and allows stomach acid to splash up into the esophagus. These symptoms include heartburn, chest discomfort, and bitter fluid flowing up into the mouth. Chest discomfort can occur. If the stomach juice trickles into the breathing tubes, hoarseness, cough, and even shortness of breath can occur. This entire problem is called gerd (gastroesophageal reflux disease). A number of factors, including certain foods, may cause the lower esophageal muscle to relax, causing gerd.
1. Pineapple and papaya.
Pineapple contains bromelain and papaya contains papain, both substances known as proteases which are digestive enzymes that help with the breakdown of protein.
Normally, your body would use pepsin to digest protein, but this enzyme is most effective in very acidic environments like the one found in your stomach. Those on acid reducing diets, as is often recommended for gerd patients, may find the digestion of proteins difficult, resulting in pain and reflux.
Adding pineapple and papaya to your gerd diet can help alleviate these symptoms by facilitating the breakdown of proteins.
2. Iodized salt.
Now, we have always heard that salt is bad for us and we should avoid it. Well, if you have gerd, you may have to hand over the chocolate, but you do get to sprinkle a little bit of salt on those veggies in your gerd diet.
Low iodine levels can contribute to hypothyroidism which is often associated with acid reflux. Many people today use sea salt which has not been iodized, so if this is the case, you should add some regular salt to your diet.
If you are unable to eat salt due to health issues, you should consider taking an iodine supplement. Low sodium levels have also been connected to acid reflux, so make sure you have at least a little salt in your gerd diet.
3. Omega-3 fatty acids.
This is controversial since many people say that adding omega-3s to their gerd diet significantly reduced gerd symptoms, while others claim that it actually made them worse.
Similarly, fatty fish (a high source of omega-3) is on the “avoid” list, but many gerd sufferers say that they have no problem eating salmon or tuna.
If you are able to handle omega-3s, the health and healing of the fish oil benefits are effective in boosting immunity and repairing damage. A fish oil supplement may also be taken if your body reacts better to this option.
What to avoid on a gerd diet?
Although specific foods to avoid may vary from person to person, there are a few general guidelines that may help reduce symptoms of gerd.
1. Spicy food.
Certain hot spices are known to irritate the esophagus and cause heartburn. Avoiding these may help prevent painful symptoms and reduce the risk of ulcerations.
2. Trans fats and high fat foods.
High fat foods, particularly those that contain trans fats, can cause reflux because of the large amounts of acid required to digest them. Foods with a high fat content have been linked to a decrease in les pressure and a delay in stomach emptying which can also lead to acid reflux.
As well, dangerous trans fats have been connected to esophageal disease, and since gerd can also contribute to complications with the esophagus, it is best to eliminate them from your gerd diet.
3. Very hot food and liquid.
It is best to let food and beverages cool a little before consuming since very hot substances have been linked to stomach and intestinal ulcers, which can intensify the symptoms of acid reflux.
4. Mint and chocolate.
Both peppermint and chocolate contain chemicals that can stimulate the release of stomach acids while also relaxing the smooth muscle sphincter between the stomach and esophagus, often resulting in acid reflux and heartburn.
Alcohol irritates the lining of the stomach and is actually one of the most reported causes of heartburn.
6. Your own trigger foods.
Given the complex nature of gerd, this one has to be added. I know it is repetitive, but everyone has certain foods that irritate their condition and cause severe symptoms. Make a list of these foods and avoid them in the future.