Gastroesophageal reflux disease can be a real nuisance for a busy mom. A chronic disease, GERD occurs when the valve between the stomach and esophagus, called the lower esophageal sphincter, doesn't work properly. Stomach contents flow backward into the esophagus, causing symptoms such as heartburn, coughing and a bad taste in your mouth. Combined with medication, a healthy diet serves as an integral part of the GERD management strategy. The American Dietetic Association and other health institutions have recommendations to help control GERD symptoms.
Avoid Fatty Foods
Fatty foods can intensify the effects of GERD and should be avoided, advises American Dietetic Association. The evidence explaining how fatty foods exacerbate GERD is conflicting. In a November 1972 article published in the journal "Gastroenterology," researchers revealed evidence suggesting high-fat foods intensify GERD by increasing the LES pressure. A more comprehensive study published in May 1999 in "The American Journal of Gastroenterology" conflicts with the earlier conclusion, suggesting fatty foods do not alter the LES pressure.
Whatever the mechanism, high-fat foods -- such as doughnuts, whole milk, cheeses, pastries and most desserts -- can intensify GERD symptoms. Fatty meats, such as hot dogs, bacon, bologna and pepperoni, should be avoided, too. The American Dietetic Association recommends consuming no more than 8 teaspoons of oil or butter per day. Fried foods are high in fat, too, so stay away from fried chicken and french fries.
Other Foods to Avoid
Women with GERD should avoid chocolate, gum, candy, peppermint, spearmint, alcohol and onions. These foods relax the LES, allowing more acid to seep back up into the esophagus. Avoid carbonated beverages because they cause belching that may be accompanied by acid reflux. Acidic foods, like tomatoes, tomato-based sauces, citrus fruit and citrus juices can irritate an already inflamed esophagus. Foods affect people with GERD differently, so you may need to experiment to find out which foods aggravate your symptoms.
No food will cure or treat GERD, but by sticking to a healthy diet, you can minimize foods that may aggravate the condition. American Dietetic Association recommends eating more whole grains, green and orange vegetables and a variety of fruits to help combat the effects of GERD. Eggs, beans, peas, soy, poultry, fish and lean meats provide good sources of protein. Nuts and nut butters are also healthful sources of protein, but you may need to limit them because they're high in fat. For dairy, drink skim milk or soy milk and eat low-fat cheese or fat-free yogurt. Most condiments don't intensify GERD, except possibly those made with pepper.
General Eating Habits
Dietary habits include both what you eat and how you eat it. According to guidelines published by the American Gastroenterological Association, women can help manage the effects of GERD by changing certain eating habits. For example, don't eat anything during the three hours before bedtime. Stay upright for several hours after eating, and elevate your head while sleeping if you experience nighttime symptoms. Obesity is a contributing factor to the development of GERD. Researchers believe excess weight could cause pressure changes in the stomach or relaxation of the LES, allowing stomach contents to reflux. If you're overweight, losing weight can be helpful in managing GERD.