Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a mouthful to say, and you probably know a friend or family member that suffers from it. In fact, it’s estimated that 20% of Americans report GERD symptoms on a weekly basis. GERD is a condition that affects the esophagus and stomach, and usually presents with chronic acid reflux. If you’ve ever experienced a burning sensation behind your breastbone after eating a large meal, then you likely had acid reflux. Acid reflux occurs when stomach contents pass through the lower esophageal sphincter into the esophagus.
Fortunately, when treating GERD, there are many natural medicine remedies available. You should start with looking at your diet. Most people receive some benefit from eliminating certain foods that cause irritation and including foods that help heal an inflamed esophagus. If you have GERD, I highly suggest eating mainly “whole foods” and removing processed sugary foods as these can lead to increased inflammation.
1. Most Vegetables
The key word here is “most.” Vegetables are loaded with antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and fiber, which all support the integrity of the lining of the gastrointestinal tract. But there are some vegetables, like peppers, garlic, and onions, that can exacerbate GERD symptoms (see “Foods to Avoid” section below for more information).
2. Most Fruits
Just like vegetables, fruits are packed with nutrients and fiber, which help support optimal function of the GI tract. The fruits you’ll want to eat more of are bananas, melon, apples, and pears. You will want to avoid the more acidic fruits like tomatoes, pineapple, grapefruits, or oranges.
This yellow spice is used around the world particularly in countries like India where curries are regularly eaten. Turmeric has anti-inflammatory properties, and thus helps soothe the lining of the esophagus and stomach.
Ginger is another potent anti-inflammatory food that can help reduce the symptoms associated with heartburn and GERD. Drink it as a tea, add finely chopped to food dishes, or add a small amount to a juicer and combine with lots of fresh greens and fruits.
5. Fermented Foods
Fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, beet kvass, miso, apple cider vinegar (unpasteurized), and pickled vegetables are loaded with probiotics like Lactobacilli species when prepared with traditional fermentation practices. The esophagus has a mini microbiome just like the colon and also benefits from probiotics.
Okra, a vegetable that is used in many US southern dishes, contains mucilaginous compounds that help support the mucous lining of the GI tract. When I was a young child, my mom would prepare okra dishes and they tasted amazing! These days, it’s hard to find okra in any food dishes except when we order Indian food or southern cuisine.
Oatmeal can be prepared as an excellent breakfast for those suffering from GERD. It’s a whole grain food and is high in fiber.
If making dietary changes does not improve the GERD symptoms after 2 weeks, you may need to look at making other changes.