Dietary and Lifestyle Recommendations for Reflux

Reflux, also known as gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD), is a common condition where stomach acid leaks up from the stomach into your food pipe (oesophagus).

What is reflux?

Reflux, also known as gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD), is a common condition where stomach acid leaks up from the stomach into your food pipe (oesophagus). This occurs when a muscle at the bottom of your oesophagus (lower oesophageal sphincter) relaxes or weakens, allowing acid to flow back into your oesophagus.

Reflux can cause symptoms such as heartburn or difficulty swallowing. For some it may just be an occasional nuisance, but for others it can be a severe, lifelong problem and may lead to complications if left untreated.

Symptoms of reflux:

  • Heartburn (an uncomfortable burning sensation in the chest that often occurs after eating)
  • Acid reflux (where stomach acid comes back up into your mouth and causes an unpleasant, sour taste)
  • Oesophagitis (a sore, inflamed oesophagus)
  • Excessive coughing / hiccups / throat clearing
  • Bad breath or hoarse voice
  • Bloating and belching
  • Feeling or being sick
  • Pain when swallowing and/or difficulty swallowing / sensation of lump in throat that doesn’t go away with repeated swallowing

Importance of diagnosis

If you are experiencing symptoms of reflux more than twice/week you should visit your medical team who will assess the need for medication to prevent complications.

Dietary management top tips:

The evidence for treating acid reflux through diet is largely practical advice based on mechanical knowledge. The aim of the dietary intervention is to prevent/reduce pressure in the stomach and the return of stomach acid into the oesophagus where it can lead to inflammation and pain or discomfort.

You may find the following measures can help reduce heartburn and other symptoms of GORD:

  1. Reduce your intake of common trigger foods which can exacerbate reflux in some individuals. For most there are only a few which cause issues and often they can be tolerated in small amounts, so no need for complete exclusion!)

  2. Eat smaller, more frequent meals reduce pressure within the stomach.

  3. Try mindful eating and chewing food into a paste helps with stomach emptying. By eating slowly and in a relaxed way will allow your stomach time to stretch so reduce risk of acid reflux into the oesophagus and also reduce acid production in the stomach that is increased during stress.

  4. Try light walking for 15-30 minutes following a meal.

  5. Separate your foods from fluid to prevent overfilling your stomach

  6. Do not eat within two hours of vigorous exercise, or of going to bed or lying down. 

  7. Do not drink too much alcohol, try cutting down by trying alcohol free alternatives or switching every other drink for a refreshing alternative like a soda water with fresh fruit or kombucha

  8. Maintain a healthy weight. Excess weight may cause extra pressure on the stomach and sphincter increasing reflux type symptoms.

  9. Elevate the head of your bed 6 to 8 inches to prevent reflux when you are sleeping. Extra pillows may only elevate your head. Instead try putting pillows between the mattress and box springs near the head of the bed.

  10. Limit or reduce stress in your life. Try participating in an exercise, yoga, or a meditation program online or via an app.

  11. Avoid tight fitting clothing around the abdomen, including underwire bras.

  12. Check your medications with your managing healthcare professional. Some medications can contribute towards reflux symptoms and suitable alternatives may be available to you.

If you feel you are frequently experiencing any of the above symptoms of reflux, do visit your medical team for a diagnosis and assessment of the need for medication. As a team of 10 specialist registered dietitians at The Gut Health Clinic, we are able to provide bespoke dietary/lifestyle advice to help prevent the complications associated with reflux.

How OneWelbeck can help

Here at OneWelbeck, we have a team of exemplary specialists, state of the art facilities and diagnostics, and highly competitive financial packages for self-funding patients as well as those with private health care.

Written by The Gut Health Clinic

The Gut Health Clinic team are gut specialist registered dietitians and join OneWelbeck to support patients with a wide range of health concerns from diabetes to digestive problems and women’s health.