Acid reflux is when the content of the stomach flows back into the oesophagus which can lead to heart burn, chest pain, regurgitation of food or sour liquid, bad breath, coughing/ wheezing, sensation of a lump in the throat, tooth or gum decay, bloating or sore throat. When the symptoms of acid reflux become severe and persistent this can be diagnosed as gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (aka GORD). In GORD symptoms occur more than twice per week.
GORD is caused by the weakening of the lower oesophageal sphincter which can consequently impair it’s ability to close. As a result, this allows stomach acid back through the oesophagus and causes symptoms.
The malfunction of the lower oesophageal sphincter can be caused from a range of factors including: increased abdominal pressure from excess weight, overeating, low stomach acid, delayed gastric emptying, SIBO, smoking, stress, alcohol, medication, food allergies and dietary factors. These dietary factors include high fat foods, coffee, spicy foods, citrus foods, onions, garlic, tomatoes and carbonated beverages.
Additionally, there has been found to be a link between gut bacteria and the function of the lower oesophageal sphincter. As a result, looking after your gut can be a beneficial tool for reducing the risks of GORD. Furthermore, some evidence suggests that certain strains of probiotics may help to reduce the symptoms. However, strains need to support digestion as a result, they can enhance barrier function and tight junctions, remove pathogens and improve GI symptoms. We recommend always speaking to your healthcare provider before supplementation. Some probiotics are not suitable for certain health complications, please seek advice.
What can you do?
- Write a trigger journal for 1-2 weeks. This can help you to identify any foods which are contributing or triggering your symptoms.
- Avoid eating late in the evening. Eating right before going to bed can increase pressure on the lower oesophageal sphincter which can contribute to symptoms.
- Limit common triggering foods such as; citrus fruits, spicy foods, alcohol and caffeine.
- Avoid drinking with meals as this can also contribute to symptoms.
- Avoid immediate exercise after eating.
- Remember to chew your food properly and stay upright for an hour after eating a meal.
- Consume a higher fibre diet – diets higher in fibre can contribute to a more favourable gut microbiome.
Finally, some people find that sleeping on the left side can help as this prevents the stomach being higher than the oesophagus (when this happens, symptoms can increase).
There you have some top tips for helping to reduce acid reflux or in persistent and severe cases, GORD. Should you be concerned about your acid reflux please do seek personalised professional advice from a health care provider.