Nothing can throw your day off more than disruptive stomach issues, especially for those who are suffering from GERD. It’s difficult to move through your day gracefully when you feel like your stomach is on fire.
Over the counter proton-pump inhibitors may quell your symptoms temporarily, but one of the best ways to treat GERD is through nutrition. Here’s how eating a well-balanced, vegan diet can help relieve acid reflux symptoms.
1. What is GERD?
Gastroesophageal reflux disease, commonly referred to as GERD or acid reflux, is a common stomach condition afflicting 10-20% of the western population. This condition is ongoing and causes the contents of your stomach to resurge into the esophagus.
GERD can really make mealtimes a nightmare for those who suffer from it. Symptoms of acid reflux disorder often flare up after consuming a meal, especially when laying down or reclining afterward. Lesser symptoms include heartburn, acid regurgitation, bloating, and belching, while more severe traits can include chronic coughing, laryngitis, and even dental erosions from acid exposure.
2. The Main Culprits
There aren’t always definitive answers about why GERD occurs. It could be partially related to a condition known as a hiatal hernia, which is when the upper part of the stomach protrudes through the opening of your diaphragm. This can cause trouble because the diaphragm regulates the acid in your stomach from passing through your esophagus.
The foods you eat as well as environmental factors such as drinking and smoking can definitely contribute to GERD. These foods include chocolate, carbonated beverages (especially soda), alcoholic beverages, high-fat dairy and meat products, caffeine, citrus fruits, tomatoes, and oils.
Fatty foods are especially irritating if you have acid reflux disorder. Fried foods, and anything containing elevated levels of saturated fat, such as meat and dairy, contribute to GERD because they have been found to delay gastric emptying. This hinders food from traveling from your stomach to your small intestine. Highly saturated foods also decrease lower esophageal sphincter pressure, which extends the length of time the esophagus is exposed to acid.
3. How a Vegan Diet can Relieve and Treat GERD
Grilled Peach and Arugula Salad with Grilled Croutons/One Green Planet
A vegan diet may be the best thing for acid reflux for a number of reasons. Firstly, when consuming a plant-based diet, you are cutting out fatty meat and dairy products that can contribute to gastric emptying and prolonged exposure to acid in the esophagus. But what is more important is the increased intake of fiber.
Dietary fiber can only be found in plant foods, and that is why fiber may be lacking in a diet packed with animal proteins and by-products. As you switch to a vegan, whole foods diet, you are systematically increasing your dietary fiber intake.
Fiber is important for those suffering from GERD because it promotes intestinal health, obliterates the risk of developing a hiatal hernia, and protects the esophagus from acid exposure. Because fiber intake keeps you regular and eliminates constipation, straining at the toilet is no longer an issue. Doctor Michael Greger says that when you strain to produce a bowel movement, the pressure inside your abdominal cavity rises. This may eventually lead to the stomach protruding through the diaphragm, otherwise known as a hiatal hernia.
Fiber also expands with water in the stomach, creating a barrier against acid rising towards the esophagus, thus preventing GERD symptoms.
Consuming a vegan diet may also be the right option for fighting GERD because it is rich in anti-inflammatory foods. This is because plant foods contain phytonutrients that possess antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and can counteract gut inflammation caused by GERD!
4. What to Eat to Reduce Acid Reflux
Dragon Fruit Rainbow Rolls/One Green Planet
When dealing with bouts of acid reflux, adding more non-citrus fruits and vegetables to your diet is key. The best vegetables to consume to combat GERD are leafy greens, cucumbers, asparagus, cruciferous veggies, and potatoes. Because citrus fruits can sometimes cause heartburn flare-ups, it’s best to stick to fruits like bananas, melons, apples, and pears.
Whole grains, high in fiber, like oatmeal, are great for an acid-reducing diet. This is because fiber promotes intestinal health and keeps our digestive tracks clean!
Cutting soda out of your diet is also important in treating acid reflux. Instead, try decaf, herbal teas, probiotic-filled Kombucha, coconut water, or just plain old water!
Taking a shot of raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar diluted in water each morning may also help to relieve GERD symptoms. This is because it has an alkaline pH which helps our bodies from becoming too acidic.
If you are looking to incorporate more acid-relieving meals into your diet try this Summer Watermelon Salad, Cucumber Gazpacho, Asparagus Risotto with Lemongrass and Thai Basil, Forbidden Black Rice and Tahini Buddha Bowl, Refreshing Apple Cider Drink, or this Apple, Pecan, and Cinnamon Overnight Oats.
If you’re looking for more information, check out these Natural Ways to Combat Heartburn!
While proper nutrition may help relieve common symptoms, be sure to consult with your doctor or nutritionist before making any drastic changes to your diet.
Try downloading the Food Monster App, which is available for both Android and iPhone and can also be found on Instagram and Facebook. The app has more than 10,000 plant-based, allergy-friendly recipes, and subscribers gain access to new recipes every day. Check it out!
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