Do you experience heartburn several times per week? I often hear clients, young and old, complain about this burning chest pain behind the breastbone. This is the most common symptom used to diagnose gastroesophageal reflux disorder, commonly known as GERD. Other symptoms may be tightness in the chest that may wake you up at night, regurgitation of stomach fluids into the mouth, nausea, recurring sour or bitter taste in the mouth, hoarseness especially in the morning and coughing to clear your throat.
Without getting too technical, there is a valve (known as the sphincter) that separates the stomach from the esophagus and when it fails to close properly, the contents of the stomach enter the esophagus. Normally, the valve opens when you swallow and allows food into your stomach where the rest of the time it is supposed to squeeze tight to prevent food and acid in the stomach from backing up into the esophagus.
Let me tell you about my recent client Tom that was having a terrible time with pain due to his reflux. He found that the over the counter medications did not work very well. He was told by his doctor that he can prevent his symptoms if he works with me and begins to make lifestyle changes. I am sure you are not surprised to learn that being overweight is highly associated with GERD. I find when my clients lose 10 pounds their symptoms lessen where the weight loss helps to make it easier for the sphincter to close.
Certainly Tom was enjoying the good life with eating high fat meals that were often on
the spicy side. Fatty foods are a true culprit when it comes to GERD symptoms. In addition to fat there are many foods that will relax the esophageal sphincter during their digestion. These include coffee, chocolate, alcohol, peppermint, spearmint, citrus fruits, tomatoes, spicy foods, raw garlic and onions and carbonated beverages.
I must say after interviewing Tom about his typical eating habits I almost did not know where to begin. Tom always started off his day with several cups of coffee with half and half cups provided at work. He went out to lunch each day where he ate hamburgers, Panda Express greasy Chinese entrees, tacos, burritos and his favorite Italian Subway sandwich. He loves spicy foods and would eat salsa and chips when he came home from work. He often enjoys pasta with his wife’s homemade fresh tomato marinara sauce. Though dinner would often include a veggie or a salad these two items were non-existent at lunch.
I took a great deal of time to educate Tom on how to read a food label for
calories per serving, fat, protein, and fiber. I showed him how to enjoy his beloved high fat foods such as a hamburger and balance it with eating a salad with a light vinaigrette dressing. His beef consumption twice a day had to be reduced to one every other day to allow his body the chance to digest it. We talked about how he could add more chicken, fish and legumes to his diet and still enjoy his meals. He could snack on turkey jerky, Trader Joe’s fat-free cottage cheese that everyone loves, tuna salad made with lite mayo, and even homemade hummus that his wife was glad to make. Tom also committed to begin eating smaller, more frequent meals which is very important to prevent GERD symptoms. I asked Tom to eat a lighter dinner that contains a few ounces of protein, lots of veggies and a salad. I told him how important it was to not eat 3-4 hours before bed and to never lie down after eating. I also suggested that he has to cut the alcohol consumption in half. We also talked about reducing all tomato based products and substituting them with other spices and seasonings.
I am glad to say that after working with Tom for two months he has lost 10 lbs. and his symptoms have almost disappeared. It has been a truly rewarding experience working with Tom. Please feel free to call me and let me help you.