Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) is the back flow of stomach contents into the esophagus. It occurs as a result of hiatus hernia (protrusion of part of the stomach through the diaphragm into the esophageal area), reflux esophagitis, abdominal pressure associated with obesity, or pregnancy pyrosis (heartburn). A ring of muscle called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) encircles the esophagus at the entrance to the stomach. The LES relaxes to allow the passage of food into the stomach and then closes once food has passed thereby preventing the reflux of stomach contents. GERD is caused by a prolonged relaxation of the lower esophageal sphincter and delayed gastric emptying causing irritation of the esophagus by gastric acid, bile, and pepsin.
The most common symptom of GERD is heartburn. Other symptoms include sour taste with acid regurgitation, belching and bloating. While the diet recommendations are aimed at reducing the cause of GERD, there are also some foods that may irritate an already damaged esophagus from reflux or aggravate these symptoms.
The treatment of GERD requires diet and lifestyle modifications, drug therapy and in severe cases, surgery. The treatment involves not only what is eaten, but also how and when food is taken.
Some recommended lifestyle modifications include:
Recommendations for the dietary management of GERD include:
Gastroesophageal reflux disease occurs when the stomach contents comes into contact with the esophagus. The symptoms include heartburn, burping, and/or regurgitation. The treatment of GERD may include making changes to diet, lifestyle, taking medications, and occasionally surgery. Consult your physician for an individualized treatment plan.
Reprinted by permission from the Gastrointestinal (GI) Society.
Written by Mary Flesher, Clinical Dietitian, The Richmond Hospital
First published in The Inside Tract® Newsletter Issue 135 January/February 2003