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Reflux diet - what to eat and what to avoid?

Reflux diet - what to eat and what to avoid?

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Gastroesophageal reflux disease, i.e. pathological regurgitation of gastric acid into the esophagus is one of the most common gastrointestinal diseases (nearly 32% of adults in Poland suffer from it). In most patients, it manifests itself persistent heartburn whose treatment often requires long-term pharmacotherapy and a change in lifestyle and diet. What should a reflux diet look like?

What principles should patients with reflux adhere to while eating?

Effective reflux treatment requires the patient to follow certain basic principles:

  • Regularity of meals - eating 5-6 meals a day at intervals of about 3 hours will be the healthiest. This allows you to meet your caloric needs without overloading your stomach.
  • Small portions - hearty meals tend to be in the stomach. Thus, they contribute to episodes of gastric reflux into the esophagus.
  • No rush while eating - fast food promotes swallowing large amounts of air. This phenomenon is called aerophagy. This, in turn, results in increased stomach pressure and can generate reflux episodes.
  • Avoiding physical exertion immediately after a meal - Exercise, like aerophagy, increases stomach pressure.
  • Avoiding lying down immediately after a meal. A full stomach and supine position (no effect of gravity) in a straight path lead to backing up of the stomach contents into the esophagus.

Reflux diet - what products should patients avoid?

Part of the products you eat every day tends to causing and increasing reflux (by weakening the natural barriers protecting the esophagus against this phenomenon). Hence, heartburn patients should mainly avoid:

  • Products that lower the pressure of the lower esophageal sphincter - chocolate, coffee, an infusion of mint leaves and alcohol.
  • Products that cause spontaneous relaxation of the lower esophageal sphincter - Onions, artichokes, fats and fried, baked and grilled meals.
  • Products affecting stomach retention - chocolate, fats, fried, baked and grilled meals and large amounts of fiber.
  • Products that increase stomach acidity - alcohol and coffee.
  • Products that increase heartburn symptoms (stimulating nerve endings in the esophagus) - citrus juices, tomatoes and hot spices.

Of course, the list of contraindicated products for reflux diet is not rigid and may vary slightly for individual patients. Nevertheless, strong alcohol, coffee, strong tea or meals fried in a large amount of fat for most people suffering from reflux will be inadvisable (healthy people should also avoid them).

Reflux diet - what products are indicated?

Reflux diet should, as a rule, be easily digestible and mildly seasoned and based on meals cooked and prepared by steaming. An example menu may include:

  • beverages - still water, fruit infusions and light tea.
  • Milk and milk products - reduced-fat milk, kefir, natural yogurt or semi-skimmed curd.
  • meat - turkey, chicken, lean beef, veal and low-fat fish (for example, cod or pollock).
  • Sweets - although not very healthy in general, it is acceptable for reflux in addition to chocolate.
  • Bread - most breads are allowed in the reflux diet.
  • Groats and pasta - most except buckwheat.
  • Fats - acceptable in small quantities.
  • Fruit - all except citrus and bananas.
  • Vegetables - all except the previously mentioned tomatoes, onions and artichokes.

It is worth noting here that the key to a healthy and effective reflux diet is common sense and knowledge of your own body. Strict adherence to the rules imposed in advance cannot be reflected at the cost of a significant reduction in the patient's comfort of life and the feeling of stress when consuming every meal out of the list (stress is one of the factors exacerbating reflux symptoms).

To sum up, easily digestible, balanced and based on observing your body diet is not only a way to fight the troublesome reflux symptoms, but also a great way to improve your health and well-being every day.

Bibliography:Internal Szczeklik 2018/2019.Dietetics and clinical nutrition by A. Payne and H. Barker.


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