Gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, is a condition that causes frequent heartburn, chest pain, regurgitation, burping, feeling a lump in the throat, and coughing. 1 People who have this condition are more likely to experience asthma and, while GERD itself is not life threatening, it can lead to more serious health conditions including esophagitis, Barrett’s esophagus, strictures, and esophageal cancer. 2 GERD can be treated with medications as well as with a number of integrative approaches. Depending on your individual situation, your healthcare practitioner may recommend any or all of the following natural approaches to GERD either in tandem with or instead of medication. Speak to a naturopathic doctor (ND) for recommendations on the right approach for you.
GERD is triggered by certain foods, so if you identify which foods cause your symptoms to flare up and avoid them, you will experience less discomfort. 3 Below is a list of foods that commonly trigger flare-ups in people with GERD, but every individual is different and you may be sensitive to some of these foods but not others. Try keeping a food journal and noting down when you experience heartburn and other symptoms in order to determine which foods to cut from your diet.
Common trigger foods:
- Citrus fruits
- Carbonated beverages
- Spicy foods
- Fried foods
Aim for a Healthy Weight
GERD is associated with obesity and is more common among people who are overweight. Excess abdominal weight can cause your pressure on the stomach which then squeezes and sends fluids upward to the esophagus, resulting in heartburn and other symptoms. 4 It is helpful and effective to work with a naturopathic doctor to come up with a health plan that includes lifestyle and dietary changes and an exercise regimen to help you achieve a healthy weight.
Sit Upright After Eating
Lying down can trigger GERD flare-ups. Try to stay sitting or standing upright for about three hours after eating to avoid this. If you find that your GERD flares up when you are lying down to go to sleep, try propping yourself up on pillows to create a posture that will not cause reflux. 5
Focus on Mental Wellness
Although more research needs to be conducted, studies show that depression, anxiety, and high-stress lifestyles may contribute to the development of GERD and worsen the symptoms. 6 Take measures to boost your mental wellness by learning healthy stress coping mechanisms, implementing a regular meditation practice, and getting regular exercise. If you are experiencing severe depression, anxiety, or are having thoughts of harming yourself or others, seek immediate medical attention.