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Foods that can cause GERD

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a chronic functional digestive disorder characterized by the flow of stomach acid into the oesophagus. This condition often leads to uncomfortable symptoms such as acid reflux and heartburn. The stomach acid flowing in the food pipe often troubles the lining. Sometimes GERD leads to the development of unwanted tissue on the lining making it tough for people to swallow. While various factors contribute to GERD, including lifestyle habits and certain medical conditions, unhealthy eating habits play a significant role in its development. The types of foods we consume can greatly impact our digestive health, and some foods have a higher likelihood of triggering GERD symptoms.

In this article, we will explore the connection between GERD and food, focusing on Indian cuisine. We’ll identify specific Indian foods that are known to cause GERD symptoms and provide alternatives that can help manage the condition. By understanding the impact of dietary choices, individuals with GERD can make informed decisions about their meals and alleviate their symptoms.

Indian Foods that can cause GERD

1.Spicy Foods:

Spicy foods, such as chilli peppers and spicy curries, are notorious triggers for GERD symptoms. The active compound capsaicin present in chilli peppers can irritate the oesophagus, leading to acid reflux and heartburn. Additionally, spices like black pepper and red chilli powder can stimulate the production of stomach acid, stimulating GERD symptoms. Hot spicy stews are also a major cause of GERD. 

2.Fried Foods:

Fried foods, including deep-fried snacks and oily preparations, are heavy and high in fat content. Fried foods also prevent the lower oesophagal sphincter (LES), a muscle that helps prevent stomach acid from flowing back up, from tightening further contributing to GERD symptoms. Fried foods take longer to digest, putting additional pressure on the stomach and causing the stomach acid to flow back into the oesophagus. This can result in acid reflux and discomfort.

3.Citrus Fruits:

Citrus fruits like oranges, lemons, and grapefruits are acidic in nature. The high acidity levels can irritate the oesophagus and trigger acid reflux in individuals with GERD. Citrus fruits contain high amounts of citric acid. This causes the stomach to produce even more acid leading to discomfort and heartburn. As a result, your stomach is full and the chances for reflux increase

4.Tomato-based Products:

The high acidity of tomatoes can worsen GERD symptoms, especially when consumed in large quantities or in combination with other trigger foods. Tomato and tomato-based products such as ketchup, salsa, and sauce both have malic and citric acid which makes the stomach produce more acid, which can lead to irritation in the oesophagus. 

5.Carbonated Drinks:

Carbonated beverages like soda and aerated drinks can contribute to GERD symptoms. These drinks contain carbon dioxide, which creates gas in the stomach. The buildup of gas can put pressure on the LES, causing it to weaken and allowing stomach acid to flow back into the oesophagus. Additionally, carbonated drinks are often acidic and can further aggravate acid reflux and heartburn. Several studies have found a strong association between carbonated drinks and triggered GERD symptoms

6.Onions and Garlic:

Onions and Garlic are pretty much used in almost every curry in India. Both of them enhance the flavour enormously. However, both of them can trigger GERD symptoms. They can reduce the tightening of the LES thus making way for the stomach acid to travel up leading to acid reflux and discomfort. 

7.Peppermint:

Peppermint is known for relaxing the muscles and it does so with LES. Even though peppermint is great in relaxing the muscles of the colon it can lead to acid travelling up because of a relaxed LES. It is not a common phenomenon but can happen with some people Peppermint tea, candies, and oils should be avoided by those with GERD.

8.Caffeinated Beverages:

Beverages like coffee, tea, and energy drinks that contain caffeine can stimulate the production of stomach acid and relax the LES. This can lead to increased acid reflux and heartburn symptoms. It’s best to opt for caffeine-free alternatives to reduce the risk of triggering GERD.

9.Chocolate:

As delicious as it may be, chocolate is a known trigger for GERD symptoms. Chocolate is high in fat content, which further contributes to digestive discomfort in individuals with GERD. Chocolate also relaxes the LES making way for the stomach acid to travel up.

10.Alcohol:

Alcohol consumption, particularly in excess, can irritate the oesophagus and increase the production of stomach acid. It can also relax the LES, leading to acid reflux and exacerbating GERD symptoms. It’s advisable to limit or avoid alcohol to manage GERD effectively.

These are just a few examples of Indian foods that can cause GERD symptoms. It’s important to note that triggers can vary from person to person, and individuals with GERD should pay attention to their own body’s reactions to different foods. Identifying personal trigger foods can help in managing GERD effectively.

Foods to be consumed if you have GERD

While there are several Indian foods that can trigger GERD symptoms, there are also options that can help alleviate discomfort and manage the condition. Here are some Indian foods that are generally well-tolerated by individuals with GERD:

  1. Oatmeal:
    Oatmeal is a nutritious and fiber-rich breakfast option that can help soothe the digestive system. Oats can absorb excess stomach acid and provides a filling and satisfying meal without causing reflux. Opt for plain oatmeal without added sugars or heavy toppings. You can add a banana as a fruit on top of it.
  2. Ginger:
    Ginger has long been used as a natural remedy for digestive issues. It possesses anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce inflammation in the oesophagus and soothe the stomach. It works wonders when it comes to relieving GERD symptoms. Incorporate fresh ginger into your meals or drink ginger tea for relief from GERD symptoms.
  3. Yoghurt/Curd/Buttermilk:
    Yoghurt is a probiotic-rich food that can promote a healthy gut. It contains beneficial bacteria that aid in digestion and can help balance the gut microbiome. Opt for plain, unsweetened yoghurt without added flavours or sugary toppings. One more curd form that is extremely good is buttermilk. You can add cumin powder to the buttermilk to get enhanced benefits.
  4. Papaya:
    Papaya is a tropical fruit that contains enzymes called papain, which aid in digestion. These enzymes help break down proteins and can ease symptoms of indigestion and GERD. Enjoy ripe papaya as a snack or incorporate it into smoothies or salads.
  5. Vegetables:
    Non-acidic vegetables like sweet potato, spinach, green beans, and carrots are generally well-tolerated by individuals with GERD. These vegetables provide essential nutrients, fiber, and antioxidants without triggering reflux. Opt for steamed or lightly cooked vegetables to make them easier to digest.
  6. Bananas:
    Bananas are a gentle and soothing fruit that can help coat the irritated oesophagus and reduce acid reflux symptoms. They are also rich in fiber, which aids in digestion. Opt for ripe bananas for better digestibility. You can pair bananas with oatmeals for great results. 
  7. Fennel:
    Fennel is another wonderful ingredient when it comes to tackling GERD. Fennel is a herb with natural anti-inflammatory properties that can help soothe the digestive system. Fennel has been there in our Indian diet forever as something to be eaten after food. It can be consumed as fennel seeds or added to dishes as a spice. Fennel tea is also a popular remedy for digestive discomfort.
  8. Whole Grains:
    Whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, and whole wheat bread are high in fiber and provide a good source of complex carbohydrates. They promote healthy digestion and can help regulate bowel movements. Opt for unprocessed, unpolished and minimally refined grains for maximum benefits. Instead of normal rice, consume brown rice and white bread consume brown bread.
  9. Lean Protein:
    Choose lean sources of protein such as skinless poultry, fish, tofu, and lentils. These options are less likely to trigger reflux and provide essential nutrients without adding excessive fat to the diet. But do not have it in fried form, otherwise it just becomes fried food and nothing else. 
  10. Herbal Teas:
    Herbal teas like chamomile tea and liquorice root tea have soothing properties that can help alleviate GERD symptoms. They can help relax the muscles of the digestive tract and provide relief from acid reflux and discomfort. CCF – Coriander, Cumin and Fennel Tea is also great for digestion

Remember, individual tolerances to specific foods may vary, and it is essential to listen to your body and identify what works best for you. It is also advisable to consult with a healthcare professional or a registered dietitian for personalized dietary recommendations for managing GERD.

In conclusion, being mindful of your food choices is crucial for managing GERD symptoms. Avoiding trigger foods that can worsen reflux, such as spicy and fried foods, citrus fruits, and carbonated beverages, can significantly reduce discomfort. Instead, opt for GERD-friendly options like oatmeal, ginger, yoghurt, buttermilk and non-acidic vegetables. Making these dietary modifications, along with other lifestyle changes, can contribute to better management of GERD and improve overall digestive health.

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