Heartburn, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), and acid reflux are often considered the same, but heartburn is a symptom of acid reflux and GERD. Heartburn is not related to the pain in any way. It occurs in the digestive system, particularly in the esophagus. The esophagus lining is very delicate as compared to the lining of the stomach, so the acid present in the esophagus is felt in the chest with a tightening sensation.
Let’s understand what acid reflux and GERD are before looking at the foods to prevent heartburn and other GERD symptoms:
1. Acid reflux
The Lower Esophageal Sphincter (LES) is a bundle of muscles between the esophagus and the stomach. It opens to let food pass into the stomach and closes once this is done. However, if this muscle weakens, it doesn’t close properly, which means the acid from the stomach moves back into the esophagus, causing reflux. Heartburn is the key symptom of acid reflux, and other symptoms include:
- Cough and a sore throat
- A bitter taste in the throat
- A sour taste in the mouth
- A burning sensation and pressure in the chest or the breastbone
2. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
GERD is very similar to acid reflux, but it is more chronic. It is the result of prolonged and frequent acid reflux more than twice a week. This condition causes inflammation in the esophagus and can lead to long-term damage to the esophagus, which may even lead to cancer.
3. Heartburn and GERD during pregnancy
Pregnant women commonly experience the ill-effects of GERD associated with heartburn. Pregnancy increases progesterone levels, causing the LES muscles to relax, which results in acid reflux. This reflux is also due to the added pressure on the stomach and a growing uterus, and the symptoms go away after delivery. Instead of giving medication, pregnant women are advised to make lifestyle changes to manage the symptoms. Doctors recommend specific foods to prevent heartburn and other symptoms of GERD in pregnant women.
4. Foods that aggravate heartburn and GERD
It’s critical to know which foods trigger heartburn and other symptoms of GERD. Some foods that commonly lead to such effects are listed here:
- High-fat foods: including fried snacks, full-fat dairy products, fatty or fried meat, including beef, pork, and lamb, fats like bacon and ham, desserts and junk food, creamy salad dressings, creamy sauces, and thick gravies, and greasy and oily food.
- Citrus fruits: Citrus fruits are high in acidic content and aggravate the symptoms of acid reflux:
- Sweet lime
- Garlic and onion: Spicy and tangy foods containing onion or garlic can trigger heartburn and should be avoided
- Other foods to avoid: Here are some other food items that should be avoided to alleviate and prevent heartburn and other symptoms of GERD:
- Caffeine and mint
- Flour-based products
- Processed foods
- Whey protein
- Whole milk and regular cheese